After months of takeout and delivery service only, NYC restaurants can now take their next step: outdoor dining. That’s what’s allowed in Phase 2 of NYC’s reopening, which started on Monday, June 22nd.
New York State has laid out a specific set of guidelines for restaurants’ utilization of outdoor spaces (which you can read here, if you’re into checklists and sanitation jargon). We’re unpacking the most important information below, to help you better understand what eating outside at a restaurant looks like right now.
Will I have to wear a mask at my table?
Nope - diners at outdoor tables are not required to wear masks. But you do have to wear one at all other times, including when you’re walking to your table, waiting to be seated, or picking up a to-go order.
Can I go inside the restaurant to use the restroom?
Yes - as long as you’re wearing a mask. According to the Interim Guidance for Outdoor and Take-Out/Delivery Food Services, restaurants “must only permit customer entry into the establishment if they wear an acceptable face covering; provided, however, that the customer is over the age of two and able to medically tolerate such covering.”
Will the restaurant staff have to wear masks?
Yes. The Outdoor and Take-Out/Delivery Food Services Guidelines for Employers and Employees states: “Employees must wear face coverings at all times.”
What else will restaurants do to ensure a sanitary environment?
In terms of mandatory policies for outdoor dining in NYC, there are two big things to know:
All outdoor tables will be separated by a minimum of six feet in all directions, and communal tables are only allowed if diners can remain six feet apart.
Restaurants are required to check employees for symptoms before they can enter the workspace, using tools like questionnaires or temperature checks. The Interim Guidance For Outdoor and Take-Out/Delivery Food Services states that, “In addition to the screening questionnaire, daily temperature checks may also be conducted per U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or DOH guidelines.”
What else should I know about sanitation guidelines?
Common areas and frequently touched surfaces/objects - like restrooms, tables, doorknobs, and credit-card readers - must be disinfected on a regular basis. The Outdoor and Take-Out/Delivery Food Services Guidelines for Employers and Employees state that, “Cleaning and disinfection must be rigorous and ongoing and should occur at least after each shift, daily, or more frequently if needed.”
Staff are required to wash their hands after bussing tables. If they’re wearing gloves, they need to replace their gloves before and after cleaning and disinfecting the tables.
Restaurants are encouraged to place hand sanitizer stations in congested areas like exits and entrances, and provide guests with single-use disposable menus and/or display menus. Lastly, restaurants have the option to let customers give contact information in case of future tracing - but this is not required.
Will I have to get my temperature checked before I’m seated?
No. Restaurants aren’t required to screen any diners or delivery workers. Although the CDC strongly urges you to stay home if you feel sick.
Can restaurants use streets or parking lots for outdoor dining?
Yup. On June 18th, Mayor de Blasio announced that (in addition to sidewalks, patios, and curb lanes, and plazas) restaurants can utilize the 45 miles of city streets that are currently blocked off to cars during the weekdays between 8am and 8pm. He also said that, “Beginning in July, restaurants can offer seating on Open Streets on nights and weekends.” We’ll continue to update this page as we get more information.
How many people can I bring with me?
The official maximum is ten people per table, and everyone at the same table must be in the same party. But some restaurants have their own party size preferences (and, in many cases, not enough space for ten people), so make sure to check in before you show up with a huge group. Also - restaurants with communal tables or communal bar areas have to create a six-foot distance between different parties.
Can I sit inside if it’s too hot outside?
Definitely not. Restaurants won’t have indoor dining available until Phase 3, when they’ll only be able to operate at 50% capacity of their indoor table service (that number won’t include employees or outdoor tables).
All of this really makes me want a drink - will bars be open for outdoor service as well?
Just like restaurants, bars are allowed to use and create outdoor spaces. All the same rules apply - meaning each table must be six feet apart, you need to be seated to drink, and you don’t have to wear a mask while you’re at your table. The NY State Liquor Authority states, “Any consumption of food and/or beverage must happen in outdoor, open-air areas, without a fixed roof (besides a temporary or seasonal awning or cover).”
Do I have to buy food to drink at a bar?
Nope. According to the NY State Liquor Authority, bars are required to “make food available, but do not require that food be purchased.”