California Restaurant Association Proposal To Allow Restaurant Dining Rooms To Reopen Will Drastically Change Dining Out

May 7, 2020

The California Restaurant Association has submitted draft plans to the state's governor in an effort to guide the industry to reopen for sit-down dining. The proposal includes an array of safeguards that will dramatically change the dining experience.

The Associated Press has reportedly obtained recommendations submitted today to California Governor Gavin Newsom by the California Restaurant Association in partnership with the California Conference of Local Health Officers and the California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health. Proposed changes include tables limited to no more than 10 people, tabletop condiments replaced by sanitizer, masked servers, and the end of buffets, salad bars and shared bread baskets.

The California Restaurant Association reportedly urged Newsom to set only broad guidelines in four areas of restaurant operations - employee health, social distancing, public education and improved sanitation and disinfection, with cities and counties given independence to determine rules within each category. The recommendations ask independent municipalities to consider measures like requiring mandatory hand-washing at increased schedules for employees, mandating facial coverings for front-of-the-house staff, imposing daily temperature checks for employees, and establishing specific measures for keeping tables apart or setting up barriers between them. A proposal to limit tables to family and household members was dropped before passing over to the governor. Unlike possible requirements imposed in other states, there is no suggestion that customers have their temperature taken due to liability concerns. Suggestions on reducing the number of tables is asked to be left to local governments.

"The risk is different in every county, stated the California Restaurant Association CEO Jot Condie said. "I think they [customers] are going to come to expect it."

Newsom indicated in his press conference earlier this afternoon that the state planned to release guidelines for restaurants to reopen on Tuesday, May 12. He stated that restaurants in certain less-populated areas of the state could begin opening their dining rooms within a week, so long as they meet various benchmarks like no Covid-19 related deaths in 14 days and no more than 25 new positives per day. In larger metropolises like San Diego, the state's second most populated city, eateries may be forced to remain closed for dine-in for a much longer duration based on those variables.

California will move into phase 2 of its easing of stay-at-home orders starting tomorrow, allowing for the opening of certain low-risk businesses like retail shops, bookstores, florists and sporting goods businesses for curbside pick-up, as well as associated manufacturing companies. Earlier this week, San Diego County unanimously voted to adopt a framework to reopen businesses in a safe manner. The county intends to send a letter to Gov. Newsom requesting "total local control" on COVID-19 decisions.

Numerous publications, including the Associated Press, have also reported that U.S. President Trump's administration has shelved detailed documents created by the Center for Disease Control aimed to give step-by-step advice to local leaders deciding when and how to reopen public places, including restaurants. The 17-page CDC report, titled "Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework," was written to help faith leaders, business owners, educators and state and local officials to help communities and states as they begin to reopen following nearly 2 months of COVID-19 related stay-at-home mandates. It was supposed to be published last Friday. The document contained detailed guidance for making site-specific decisions related to reopening schools, restaurants, summer camps, churches, day care centers and other institutions.

On the topic of reopening restaurants and bars during the Covid-19 pandemic, the CDC discusses factors to consider when deciding whether to reopen, including whether the establishment is prepared to protect employees and customers at higher risk for severe illness. Many legal scholars have warned that restaurants and bars choosing to reopen could find themselves on the receiving end of lawsuits if the business fails to initiate proper precautions and standards and have customers or employees contract COVID-19 as a result.  

Check out the CDC guidelines for reopening restaurants below.