On June 19, King County announced that restaurants were approved for Phase 2. It’s similar to Phase 1.5, meaning that restaurants could reopen for dine-in service, provided they follow a very specific set of guidelines laid out by the Washington Department of Health. You can feel free to read those rules in all their bureaucratic glory here.
But we understand that reading all of that might not be your idea of fun. Since restaurants are now well underway on their “Safe Start,” you might have some questions. So we’re going to unpack the most important info below, to help you better understand what eating at a restaurant looks like right now.
Do I have to wear a mask?
Technically, no. The Department of Health has “strongly suggested” that customers wear one unless you’re putting food in your mouth, but note that some restaurants will require you to wear a mask anytime you’re not seated. If you’re not sure about a restaurant’s policy, your best bet is to wear one anyway (unless you are unable to) or call and ask the restaurant.
Does the restaurant staff have to wear masks?
Yes. Every single restaurant employee is required to wear a mask, so just assume everyone is smiling politely at you for being such an understanding, patient customer.
What else are restaurants doing to ensure a sanitary environment?
For starters, hand sanitizer must be provided at the entryway for staff and customers. Currently, no bar seating, salad bars, or buffets are permitted, and if the restaurant is a counter-service spot, it’s required to put protocols in place to make sure people are social distancing at food pick-up areas.
Other requirements for restaurants include employees frequently washing their hands, routine surface cleaning, making sure employees stay home if they feel sick, and single-use menus.
Will I have to get my temperature checked before I’m seated?
The Department of Health doesn’t require it, but restaurants may choose to check temperatures before customers sit down. So far, we haven’t seen anywhere that’s doing this - but that could change.
How crowded will restaurants be?
Based on a restaurant’s prior maximum seating capacity, a restaurant can fill 50% of their indoor dining space.
Social-distancing guidelines remain in place, meaning restaurants must ensure a minimum of six feet between tables. The Department of Health even suggests installing barriers like partitions or plexiglass in areas where maintaining a physical distance of six feet is difficult.
Can I sit outside?
Yes. Restaurants can fill 50% of their outdoor dining space. Tables will still be six feet apart, and some restaurants in Seattle have already adapted by rearranging their patio furniture and/or making use of their parking lots in order to seat more customers safely.
Do I have to make a reservation?
We’d recommend it, but not every place will be taking reservations. Limited dining capacity means that even restaurants where you could always get a table will fill up quicker than before. If you want a book a reservation at your favorite spot, just pretend like it’s 1995 again and call them on the phone. Restaurants will be happy to let you know whether or not you need to book in advance.
We’ve also noted which spots you’ll definitely need a reservation for on our Reopenings Guide.
How many people can I bring with me?
Seating is limited to five people per party. However, we’ve seen some Seattle spots that have implemented maximum party sizes of three or four people. It’s always a good idea to call and check so you can avoid sending one of your roommates home to eat a PB&J by themselves.
All of this really makes me want a drink - can I head down to my favorite bar?
That depends. Does it serve food? If so, there’s a pretty good chance you can, but note that bar seating is not permitted during 2.
For a full list of bars (and breweries) that have reopened, click here.