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October 9, 2020
What We Know About Eating In Seattle Restaurants Right Now
Do you need a mask? Should you make a reservation? We answer these questions and more.
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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?

You sure do. Anytime you’re not actively eating or drinking, wearing a mask is required by law. In fact, businesses are also required by law to refuse you service if you aren’t wearing one. So please don’t leave it in the car, or take it off the second you sit down. And, we suggest throwing it back on every time your server swings by for good measure.

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 many restaurants in Seattle have adapted by rearranging their patio furniture, making use of their parking lots in order to seat more customers safely, and/or are permitted to use space on the street.

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 now limited to six people per party. However, we’ve seen some Seattle spots that have implemented maximum party sizes of fewer than that. 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.

But who can I bring with me? Does it have to be my household? I’m sick of them.

Note that a previous mandate, which required all indoor tables to be comprised of people from the same household, is now null and void. You can eat inside or outside with anyone you want.

All of this really makes me want a drink - can I head down to my favorite bar?

That depends. Can you head to your favorite bar and grab a table? Yes, but not a barstool. Bar seating is not permitted during Phase 2. Sushi bars and lunch counters are the exception to the rule, but you’ll still be required to sit six feet apart from other diners. Also note that all restaurants and bars are prohibited from serving alcohol after 11pm.

For a full list of bars (and breweries) that have reopened, click here.

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