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Re-opening challenges -- what's a restaurant to do?

Things to remember when planning to re-open

Post Date:06/19/2020 4:00 PM

At long last, many San Jose restaurants are starting to open their doors again for outdoor dining.San Pedro Squared_08  

That’s a good thing. But resuming business – even outside -- also means being vigilant to slow the spread of COVID-19, so that we can continue to re-open safely.  

How can business owners do their part? First, by reviewing Santa Clara County’s Guidelines for Restaurants and Social Distancing Protocols . Then put them into practice. These rules aren’t voluntary, and businesses can operate only if they can adhere to them.  

The 411 on Face Coverings 

Let’s dig in a bit more on face coverings. In San Jose, they’re required for customers when at any business, whether they’re inside the restaurant, dining outdoors or waiting in line. And they’re also required for employees any time a worker could interact with the public. (A few exceptions exist – like kids under the age of six and anyone with a medical condition.)  

Asking a customer to put on a face covering can be awkward. So let them know you take safety seriously by posting the county’s Social Distancing Protocol Visitor Information and COVID-19 Prepared signs. (That’s also a requirement to remain open.) You might also want to supplement with a more eye-catching sign of your own stating that face coverings are required. (We’ve created a directory of local sign shops that have safety signage available.)  

What about face coverings when a customer is eating? As the County notes in the Public Health Order FAQ, you can take your mask off “to address basic biological necessities” (such as eating -- thankfully). But if you’re dining at outdoors, “you must wear a face covering while waiting in line, going to or from your table, using the restroom, ordering your meal, and at other times the restaurant may require,” according to the FAQs. (Kids 6 and under, or those who have trouble breathing, don’t have to wear a face covering.) Bottom line is that face coverings should be worn at all times except when you are actually eating or drinking. 

Setting the Table for Safety 

The County has also issued guidance for how restaurants should arrange seating. Here’s a rundown: 

  • Limit tables to 6 people; 
  • All patrons must be from the same household
  • Tables must be arranged so patrons can be six feet apart (at least)
  • Alcohol should only be sold with a meal
  • Outdoor dining must comply with all local lows and regulations (if you’re in San Jose, please register through our free and easy Al Fresco program).  

There’s a bunch more guidance for outdoor dining on the County’s website. It’s full of tips on how to make the dining experience more efficient and safe.  

Social distancing rules are requirements, not suggestions. Customers can notify the City of a possible problem by emailing, who may follow up with an emphasis on education about the requirements.  

parking lotA final note about outdoor patios and tables on sidewalks: It’s human nature to gather and congregate. But these are extraordinary times, and restaurants are at the front lines of slowing the spread of COVID-19. Crowds and gatherings can put your employees and customers at risk, and also lead to complaints about your business. Santa Clara County is only allowing additional business operations to re-open if they adhere to these rules. The better we can all follow the guidelines,the better and faster our businesses can get back to business!
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