Public Health – Seattle & King County thanks our licensed food establishment partners for helping reduce the spread of COVID-19. This document outlines a plan for reopening that safely increases business, protects public health and meets Phase 2 requirements. Phase 2 of the Governor's Safe Start plan allows restaurants and taverns to open with strict safety and health measures.
Restaurants and taverns must develop and adopt a written procedure for dine-in service that meets Phase 2 guidelines listed below. The procedure must also comply with all safety and health requirements made by Public Health – Seattle & King County, Governor Jay Inslee, Washington State Department of Health, and Washington State Department of Labor & Industry. For more information, read Public Health's COVID-19 Guidance for Restaurants and Workplaces.
A COVID-19 monitor must be designated at each job site to monitor employee health and enforce the COVID-19 safety plan.
*Written procedures do not need to be submitted to Public Health — Seattle & King County for approval, but should be available during inspections.
Dine-in service procedure
- Provide hand sanitizer for all staff and customers, if available.
- Bar-area seating is prohibited in all phases; however, counter-style seating is permitted in other areas of the establishment (indoor and outdoor), with at least six feet separation between parties. Bar-area seating refers to a bar table/counter where patrons sit or stand side-by-side, where alcoholic drinks are typically passed from bartenders directly across the bar to patrons on the other side. No seating, standing or service across the bar is allowed at the bar counter. The bar counter area must be blocked off from use. Dining tables and seating booths are allowed in the bar area if they follow the same dining requirements in this guidance.
Counter-style seating refers to an elevated surface, such as a lunch counter or sushi bar, where food may be served directly across the counter, and patrons from different parties are seated at least 6 feet apart. Staff working behind the counter must remain at least 6 feet from customers as much as possible, with only incidental closer contact.
Guidance for Liquor & Cannabis Licensees, related to food service and indoor seating requirements
- Restaurants that do not have table service must have protocols that ensure adequate social distancing at food and drink pick-up stations and dining area. Table service is when servers take guests’ orders at their table and bring them their food.
- Restaurants must have implemented a plan to ensure proper physical distancing in the lobby, waiting areas, and payment counters.
- Standing is prohibited in any area of the establishment, except for the lobby or waiting area and then must be done while maintaining 6 feet of distance between patrons.
- All parties and tables must have 5 guests or less. Indoor dining at the same table is limited to members of the same household. Staff should ask whether guests are from the same household. If the guests answer in the affirmative, the business has satisfied its obligation.
- Guest occupancy must be 50% of maximum building occupancy or lower as determined by the local Fire Marshall. Outdoor seating is allowed but must also be at 50% capacity. Outdoor seating does not count toward the building occupancy limit. Outdoor seating must follow all other requirements in this document.
- An outdoor seating permit may be required for expanding or creating a new outdoor seating area on private property or public right-of-way. Obtain the appropriate outdoor seating permit from your local municipality if you are expanding or creating new outdoor seating.
- Physical distancing of more than six feet between chairs of adjacent outdoor tables should be maintained in all sides and at all times and also use only 50% of seating capacity allowed and approved by your local municipality.
- Food establishments that share common walls with adjacent restaurants need to set up their outdoor seating so that they are more than six feet apart or separated by a physical barrier. Physical barriers may be needed in other areas as well to maintain separation from public right-of-ways and other public areas. Please consult with your local municipality on what types of physical barriers are allowed.
- For liquor licensees who want to add outdoor seating to their premises, please go to the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) website to access the Liquor Alternations Request Form. Please submit forms to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Physical distancing of 6 feet between customers, with floor markings
- Hourly utensil replacement or wash/rinse/sanitize
- Staff monitoring to ensure these requirements are met
- Sneeze guard-type covers for open foods
- Provide hand sanitizer for customers at the beginning AND end of the salad bar/buffet
- Signage as a reminder of physical distancing, face coverings, hand sanitizer use, staying home with symptoms, no reuse of utensils or plates
- When catering for approved events, these same guidelines apply
- For any type of self-serve food or beverage dispensing machines, bins or containers, touch points such as handles should be sanitized hourly and washed/rinsed/sanitized at least every 4 hours
- Wrapped single service utensils, such as straws, flatware and stir sticks are highly recommended for self-service use
- single-use disposable menu
- electronic, chalk board, or white board menu
- an app service or website for viewing on customer's personal device
- Reusable menus are now allowed when sanitized after each use.
- Any condiments typically left on the table (such as ketchup or soy sauce) must be single-use or sanitized after each use.
- All alcohol sales, service and consumption for on premises consumption must be discontinued by 10 PM. (This does not apply to hotel room service, or to-go sales for businesses normally approved for this type of service.)
- All live music and entertainment is prohibited during Phase 2 and Phase 3. See this memo for additional information.
- Vending and other game areas, including billiards, darts and video games are prohibited.
For taverns, breweries, wineries and distilleries (per Liquor & Cannabis Board permits):
- Indoor seating is prohibited unless the establishment provides all of the following:
- Provide no fewer than 3 menu items such as: sandwiches, salads, soups, pizza, hamburgers, fry orders, or substantial hors d'œuvres/appetizers.
- Obtain required approval, upgraded permits, or plan review from Public Health before changing the menu.
- For outdoor seating, a temporary structure may be used. Outdoor structures (temporary or permanent) should have no more than two walls to provide appropriate ventilation. The limitation on walls applies to both rigid and flexible walls.
- Guest occupancy is limited to 50% capacity. All parties and tables must be limited to five guests or less. Indoor guests must be members of the same household.
- Download an infographic flyer outlining Safe Start requirements for taverns and restaurants to help food establishment owners comply with the guidance. Also available in the following languages:
For additional information, please refer to Guidance for Liquor & Cannabis Licensees, related to food service and indoor seating requirements.
Employee safety and health
Employers must follow the Washington State Department of Labor & Industry COVID-19 requirements to protect workers:
- Educate workers about coronavirus and how to prevent spread of disease. Workers should also know the employer's COVID-19 policies. This should happen in the language workers understand best.
- Always maintain at least six feet of separation between all employees and customers. If physical distancing is not possible for a specific task, use other prevention measures: use physical barriers, limit the number of people in narrow or enclosed areas, stagger breaks and work shift starts so fewer people are working at the same time.
- Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, goggles, face shields and facemasks as appropriate to employees for the work activity.
- Employees must be screened for COVID-19 symptoms before each shift begins. Ask workers if they have any of these symptoms that cannot be attributed to another condition: Fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea. If they have any of these symptoms, they need to stay home. Have them contact their physician for possible testing or learn about free testing at: www.kingcounty.gov/covid/testing
Customer safety and health
Restaurants and taverns must take steps to make sure that customers understand and practice behaviors that will help minimize the spread of COVID-19.
- Place signs at the entrance to encourage customers to:
- stay home if ill or having COVID-19 symptoms
- wear a face covering unless eating
- use hand sanitizer upon entering building
- stay six feet away from others at all times.
- Ensure restrooms are supplied with warm water, soap, and single-use towels for handwashing.
- Frequently clean and disinfect common surfaces in dining areas and restrooms
For more information:
- The Governor's Phase 2 and Phase 3 Restaurant, Tavern, Breweries, Wineries and Distilleries COVID-19 Requirements, updated 7/31/20
- The Governor's July 28, 2020 Memo update on Restaurants, bars, etc.; entertainment, gatherings, etc.