Gov. Inslee sets out rules for restaurants to restart dine-in service

Restaurants that open their doors during Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Safe Start” plan for reopening Washington will need to need to limit capacity of dining areas — including outdoor seating areas — to 50 percent.

That’s one of a set of rules announced by the governor Monday.

Another restriction: Restaurants must keep a 30-day log of all customers who use dine-in table facilities, and the log must include telephone/email contact information for customers in the event that contact tracing must be done to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The Phase 2 restrictions cover everything from dine-in restaurants, to taverns, to food trucks, cafes and public houses.

“No restaurant or tavern may operate indoor or sit-down services until they can meet and maintain all requirements, including providing materials, schedules and equipment required to comply,” states the two-page guidance letter signed by Inslee Monday.

The rules include a ban on “all buffets, salad bars, salsa bars, and any other communal food source shared by people from different dining parties.”

Also prohibited: bar-style seating of any kind. Businesses must close off bar seating to prohibit patrons from using those areas.

Restaurants, taverns and similar establishments must also make hand sanitizer available at the door for all staff and patrons.

Establishments must also screen employees for signs or symptoms of COVID-19 at start of their shifts.

The recommendations include restricting the size of groups that are dining in; all parties and tables must have no more than five customers.

Tables must be placed 6 feet away from other tables, unless there is a physical barrier or wall separating booths or tables, according to Inslee’s letter.

The letter also strongly suggests that customers wear a cloth face covering “anytime they are not seated at the table (while being seated or leaving, or while going to the restroom).”

In-person dining establishments must also offer single-use menus.

The restrictions also require that any condiments left on tables — ketchup, mustard, soy sauce — must be single-use or sanitized after each use.

Restaurants will also need a plan, and follow it, to make sure customers and workers are maintaining proper physical distancing in lobbies, waiting areas, and payment counters.

The guidance letter also says that restaurants and taverns must minimize the number of staff serving any table, and strongly recommends that one staff person take a table’s order, serve all food and beverages, take payments, and perform other duties, such as setting out utensils.

The restrictions also call for a minimum 6-foot separation “between all employees (and customers) in all interactions at all times.”

When strict physical distancing is not feasible for a specific task, the recommendation letter adds, “other prevention measures are required, such as use of barriers, minimize staff or customers in narrow or enclosed areas, stagger breaks, and work shift starts.”

Other rules require the use of personal protective equipment such as gloves, goggles, face shields and face masks; frequent hand washing; and frequent cleaning and sanitizing.