Ohio Restaurants and Bars Begin Soft Openings for Diners Amid COVID-19 Epidemic

As part of the next phase of Responsible RestartOhio, Ohio restaurants and bars have begun reopening for outdoor patio dining, with inside dining to resume on May 21, 2020. While continuing to comply with food safety and sanitation guidelines, and after instituting special protocols for employees during weeks of carryout-only operations, restaurant and bar owners are now faced with the challenge of enforcing social distancing requirements as the number of diners increases and the risk of crowds forming at their premises rises. Current steps restaurants and bars must take with respect to customers include:

  • Ensuring a minimum of six (6) feet between parties when waiting for a table or dining; and if not possible, utilizing barriers or take other protective measures.
  • Only accepting reservations or parties containing ten (10) or fewer customers.
  • Requesting that customers and guests not enter the premises if symptomatic for COVID-19.
  • Providing patrons access to handwashing methods while inside the establishment and, if possible, placing approved handwashing or sanitizing products in high-traffic/high-contact areas.

Significantly, food-service establishments offering dine-in service must take affirmative steps with customers to ensure safe social distancing.

Other steps restaurants and bars are recommended to take with respect to customers include:

  • Recommending customers to wear face coverings at all times, except when eating.
  • Utilizing disposable menus when possible.
  • Considering posting a customer-facing communication to indicate when a table has been cleaned.
  • Encouraging customers to make dine-in reservations, where possible, or use drive-thru, takeout, or delivery options.
  • Encouraging at-risk potential customers to use alternatives to dining in the establishment.

A complete copy of the Ohio Health Director’s Dine Safe Order is available here.

Restaurants and bars should also be mindful of any local county or municipal requirements governing reopening and dining operations, including special permitting requirements for the expansion of outdoor dining areas onto sidewalks, streets and parking areas.

The KMK Law Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response Team can assist restaurant and bars owners with their reopening plans and offer guidance on taking appropriate measures with respect to restarting customer dining operations.

KMK Law articles and blog posts are intended to bring attention to developments in the law and are not intended as legal advice for any particular client or any particular situation. The laws/regulations and interpretations thereof are evolving and subject to change. Although we will attempt to update articles/blog posts for material changes, the article/post may not reflect changes in laws/regulations or guidance issued after the date the article/post was published. Please consult with counsel of your choice regarding any specific questions you may have.


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