New York City’s nightlife is a defining feature of what makes this city so unique and special. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has hit this sector the hardest, putting these cultural and social institutions at risk. Until a robust restaurant recovery plan is built, there are strict guidelines that must be followed.
Despite the Governor’s May 22, 2020, executive order permitting gatherings of up to 10 people, restaurants, and bars are still limited to take-out and delivery only. Meaning:
- Restaurants and bars must not serve food or drinks to be eaten inside the restaurant or bar.
- Restaurants and bars must not place tables, chairs, or benches outside for customers’ use unless done so as a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability who is waiting in line.
- Restaurants and bars must make sure all food and drinks are sold “to go” and are carried away to discourage people from gathering.
- People should not gather in groups inside or outside of restaurants and bars while waiting for take-out or after picking up food and drinks.
- Restaurants and bars should help people maintain an orderly line with people spaced six feet apart and discourage gathering.
- Make lines on the floor or sidewalk 6 feet apart with tape or chalk to show where people should wait and not block the sidewalk (this is not mandatory but encouraged)
- Employees must wear a face-covering unless they cannot do so because of a medical condition. Restaurants and bars must provide face coverings to employees.
- Customers must wear face-covering when they cannot maintain a physical distance of 6 feet from other people unless they cannot wear one because of a medical condition. It is the customer’s responsibility to wear a face covering, but restaurants and bars can take steps to encourage customers to do so:
- Restaurants and bars may require customer face coverings within their premises. However, if they do so they must also 1) apply and enforce the requirement without discrimination and 2) make reasonable accommodation for any person who cannot wear a face covering, if such accommodation can be made without undue hardship (for example, having the customer wait outside and bringing their order to them). Establishments should not request proof of a medical need for an accommodation.
- Restaurants and bars may post signs reminding people of the face-covering requirement, but signs are not required.
- If a person refuses to follow a restaurant’s or bar’s rules, including rules on face coverings and physical distancing, the restaurant or bar may ask the person to leave.
- If an emergency or condition arises that might cause danger to life or personal property, the restaurant or bar should call 911.
Sales of alcoholic drinks:
- Restaurants and bars may sell alcoholic drinks with food only
- People must follow New York City’s Open Container Law, which prohibits drinking alcohol on a sidewalk, in a park, or in other public places. This means no one is allowed to drink alcohol in front of a restaurant or bar.
To provide restaurants and bars more space in the wake of social distancing, the City Council announced new legislation for outdoor dining which will:
- Provides for an almost immediate, temporary Sidewalk Cafe license for this season, for any restaurant or bar located on a street currently zoned for sidewalk cafes. No fees required.
- The Department of Transportation (“DOT”) identifies additional open spaces (all or part of streets, plazas, etc.) where outdoor dining would be appropriate, and where street users would be properly protected from traffic.
- The Health Department creates safety guidelines to ensure that food service establishments follow proper social distancing and cleaning protocols.
- Foodservice establishments would then submit a quick application to the Department of Consumer Affairs to operate on an open space identified by DOT, and/or if they’re currently zoned for a sidewalk cafe, for a spot on the sidewalk. Restaurants could also operate in privately owned spaces, like parking lots, so long as they have permission from the owner.