COVID-19 UPDATE: Governor Wolf Issues Guidance for Food Service Industry Authorized to Conduct In-Person Operations

On May 27, 2020, Governor Wolf issued guidelines for reopening restaurants and bars in counties entering the “green phase,” together with guidelines for outdoor dining for counties in the “yellow phase.”  Outdoor dining for counties in the yellow phase is set to begin June 5, 2020.  The guidelines, available here, detail the “procedures businesses in the restaurant industry must follow to limit the spread of COVID-19 to the extent they are permitted to conduct in-person operations.”

Some excerpts of the guidelines are as follows:

  • Bar seating may be utilized provided that customers are seated and comply with physical distancing guideline of at least 6 feet or physical barriers between customers. Standing in a bar area will not be permitted.
  • A maximum of four customers that have a common relationship may sit together at the bar, while adhering to the physical distancing guidelines or barriers between other customers.
  • Provide at least six feet between parties at tables, (i.e., the six feet cannot include the space taken up by the seated guest). If tables or other seating are not movable, seat parties at least six feet apart.
  • Ensure maximum occupancy limits for indoor and outdoor areas are posted and strictly enforced. Maximum occupancy is calculated using the following two methods. The more restrictive number must be used.
    • Method 1. Limit to 50% of stated fire capacity or 12 people per 1,000 square feet if there is not a fire code number available. When no fire code number is available for outdoor dining, the 12 people per 1,000 square feet number should be applied.
    • Method 2. Arrange the restaurant or retail food service business so that customers sitting at a table are not within six feet of any customers sitting at another table in any direction and calculate the maximum number of customers that can be accommodated.
  • Establish a limit for the number of employees in shared spaces, including break rooms, and offices to maintain at least a six-foot distance.

Failure to strictly adhere to the requirements set forth in the guidelines “may result in disciplinary actions up to and including suspension of licensure, including liquor licenses.” Employees and customers may also report “possible health and safety violations in the workplace related to COVID-19” to a local health department or a law enforcement agency, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, or OSHA.

Ansa Assuncao, LLP continues to monitor the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the restaurant industry.  Our legal team can advise businesses on specific legal issues arising from the coronavirus, including best practices and policies to follow.  Contact our legal team for assistance.

Malena Kinsman is an Associate in our Pennsylvania office.