Restaurants across Massachusetts will finally be allowed to offer outdoor dining as early as June 8, nearly two months after the coronavirus lockdown began, but the experience will feel a bit different from what it once was.
Gov. Charlie Baker has said he'll issue an order on Monday allowing restaurants and other reopening Phase 2 businesses to bring staff in to prepare.
Get the latest news on COVID-19 delivered to you. Click here to sign up for our weekly coronavirus newsletter.
On Friday, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito also detailed guidelines that the Baker administration established for the reopening of restaurants and the lodging industry. She said restaurants will be allowed to reopen for outdoor dining at the start of Phase 2 -- assuming they follow specific rules around social distancing, hygiene, staffing and cleaning and disinfecting.
Here's an explanation of Massachusetts' COVID-19 restaurant safety standards.
What will outdoor dining look like when restaurants can reopen?
Restaurants will have to comply with existing social distancing guidelines in order to provide outdoor dining services. This includes:
- Tables positioned six feet apart
- No more than six people seated at a table
- Servers will minimize time spent within six feet of patrons
- Face covering required at all times, except when eating
With such limited outdoor dining spaces, how can I ensure I can get a table?
Restaurants will likely operate by reservation or call-ahead seating to avoid people congregating in waiting areas.
Restaurants are also required to do away with buzzers or other devices that alert you when your table is ready. Instead, expect no-touch methods like audio announcements, text messages or notices written on blackboards or displayed on video screens.
How will restaurants ensure dining areas remain sanitary?
According to the safety guidelines, servers will be required to wash their hands or apply hand sanitizer between each table interaction.
You will also have access to a handwashing station and hand sanitizer will be made available at all entrances, exits and dining areas.
Menus will either be paper to be disposed after each use or posted on a board or electronically.
You won't see any condiments or food items that are pre-set on tables. Buffet and self-serve stations will remain closed.
While restaurants are advised to operate as much as possible through outdoor table service, resuming indoor dining may not be too far behind.
When will indoor table service resume?
The first part of Phase 2 will only allow for outdoor dining, but restaurants could be authorized in a subsequent Phase 2 order to begin indoor table service if public health data continues to trend in a positive direction, according to the state's guidelines.
What will indoor dining look like?
The same social distancing regulations would apply indoors as are being implemented for outdoor dining, but with the following additional measures:
- No bar seating
- All patrons must be seated
- Any areas not used for food or beverage services (like dance floors, play areas, etc.) must be closed off.
- No lingering in common spots like waiting areas and bathrooms