Back to Business Safely: Restaurants & Bars

Cleaning & Hygiene

  • Perform ongoing and routine environmental cleaning and disinfection of high-touch areas (e.g., doors, doorknobs, rails) with an EPA approved disinfectant for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), and increasing disinfection during peak times or high customer density times and all shared objects (e.g., payment terminals, tables, countertops/bars, receipt trays, condiment holders) between use.

    • Disinfect dining tables and booths, including condiment containers and reusable menus, between each use, allowing the disinfectant to sit for the necessary contact time recommended by the manufacturer.

  • Promote frequent use of hand washing and hand sanitizer for wait/food service staff upon reporting to work and frequently throughout shift. Hand washing is required to at least meet the requirements as specified in the North Carolina Food Code Manual, Sections 2-301.12, 2- 301.14, and 2-301.15.

Monitoring for Symptoms

Social Distancing & Minimizing Exposure

  • Ensure social distancing by arranging tables and seating to achieve at least 6-foot separation between parties for indoor and outdoor dining.

    • Each group of people sitting at a counter should be separated by six (6) feet.

  • Permit no more than 50% of maximum occupancy as stated in fire capacity. Restaurants may permit up to 12 people per 1,000 feet if there is not a fire code number available.

  • Post the reduced “Emergency Maximum Capacity” in conspicuous place. Sign templates are available in English and Spanish on the NC DHHS COVID-19 response site.

  • Post signage reminding people about social distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from others).

  • Know Your W's sign templates are available in English and Spanish on the NC DHHS COVID-19 response website.

  • Mark six (6) feet of spacing in lines at high-traffic areas for customers, such as any cash register or any place where customers wait to be seated

North Carolina will move into Safer At Home Phase 2 of lifting COVID-19 restrictions at 5 p.m. Friday, May 22. Phase 2 runs through at least Friday, June 26 unless changed or canceled. If requirements are followed, restaurants are permitted to operate on a restricted basis within narrow parameters.


Under Executive Order 141, Bars must remain closed. "Bars" means establishments that are not eating establishments or restaurants  that have a permit to sell alcoholic beverages for onsite consumption under NC Law, and that are principally engaged in the business of selling alcoholic beverages for onsite consumption.

Required Actions (Restaurants)

Recommended Actions (Restaurants)

Social Distancing & Minimizing Exposure

  • Allow no more than 6 people at a table, unless they are a family from the same household. You do not need to ask whether groups are a family.

  • Don’t use shared tables among multiple parties unless the seats can be arranged to maintain social distancing between parties.

  • Require patrons to wait outside, with markings to ensure 6 feet apart, with floor markings and instructions for social distancing.

  • Provide hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol) at the entrance when available. 

  • Provide education to employees on how to properly wear, remove, and wash or dispose of face coverings.

  • Install physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions at cash registers, or other food pickup areas where maintaining physical separation of 6 feet is difficult.

  • Advise all waitstaff to stay 6 feet away from customers to the extent possible.

  • Advise all employees to stay 6 feet away from each other to the extent possible.

  • Stagger seating times to the extent possible by using reservation systems or other methods; rotate or stagger shifts to limit the number of employees in the workplace at the same time

  • Consider alternative options to gathering lots of people in a small area, such as having people wait in their cars and alerting them by phone when their table is ready.

  • Staff meetings should be held virtually or provided by written notes instead of congregating.

  • Reduce condiments and other items on the table for use between customers; provide condiments by request only; or provide disposable condiment packs.

  • Continue to provide take-out, curbside pickup, and delivery options.

  • Use rolled utensils and discontinue preset table settings.

  • Continue to offer contactless payment options, curbside pickup, and delivery; if possible, use phone app technology to alert patrons when their table is ready to avoid use of pagers or buzzers.

  • Use touchless payment options as much as possible. Ask customers and employees to exchange cash or card payments by placing on a receipt tray or on the counter rather than by hand. Wipe any pens, counters, or trays between use and between customers with a disinfecting wipe.

  • Designate an ordering area at bars when wait staff are not available to visit each table. The ordering area should be at least 6 feet from other patrons seated at bar.

Cloth Face Coverings

Cleaning & Hygiene

  • Systematically and frequently check and refill hand sanitizers (at least 60% alcohol) and assure soap and hand drying materials are available at sinks.

  • Use disposable menus, a menu display board, or mobile options, between customers/groups.

  • Use single use/disposable linens when possible. If using disposable linens is not possible, sanitize cloth linens after each customer.

  • Provide, whenever available, hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol) at the entrance and other areas.

  • Avoid offering any self-serve food or drink options, such as buffets, salad bars, and drink stands.

  • If self-serve is used:

    • Provide an attendant at buffet areas to monitor social distancing and remove any contaminated food or utensils.

    • Change, clean, and sanitize serving utensils (e.g., tongs, bulk food dispenser spoons) every 30 minutes.

    • Have employees plate food for customers or provide increased monitoring of self-service areas.

    • Encourage handwashing and hand sanitizer use among customers before using self-service area. Provide hand sanitizer at the beginning of each service line and post signage requesting use before handling utensils.


Monitoring for symptoms

  • Have a plan in place for immediately removing employees from work if symptoms develop.

  • Establish and enforce sick leave policies to prevent the spread of disease, including:

    • Enforcing employees staying home if sick.

    • Encouraging liberal use of sick leave policy.

    • Expanding paid leave policies to allow employees to stay home when sick.

  • Per CDC guidelines, if an employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is presumed positive by a medical professional due to symptoms, the employee should be excluded from work until:

    • No fever for at least 72 hours since recovery (without the use of fever-reducing medicine) AND

    • Other symptoms have improved (e.g., coughing, shortness of breath) AND

    • At least 10 days have passed since first symptoms

  • Per CDC guidelines, if an employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19 but does not have symptoms, they should remain out of work until 10 days have passed since the date of their first positive COVID-19 diagnostic test results, assuming they have not subsequently developed symptoms since their positive test.

  • Require symptomatic employees to wear masks until leaving the facility. Cleaning and disinfecting procedure should be implemented by designated personnel following CDC guidelines once sick employee leaves.

  • Provide employees with information on help lines to access information or other support in reference to COVID-19, e.g. 211 and Hope4NC Helpline (1-855-587-3463)


Protecting Vulnerable Populations

  • Designate a specific appointment times for individuals to receive service who identify as high risk.

  • Enable employees to self-identify as high risk for severe disease and reassign work to minimize face-to-face contact and to allow them to maintain a distance of six feet from others, or to telework if possible.


Combating Misinformation

  • Make information available to workers about COVID-19 prevention and mitigation strategies, using methods like videos, webinars, or printed materials like FAQs.

  • Hang signs and posters to remind patrons and staff of physical distancing, such as those found Know Your Ws: Wear, Wait, Wash and Social Media Toolkit for COVID-19.


Water and Ventilation Systems

  • Follow the CDC’s Guidance for Reopening Buildings After Prolonged Shutdown or Reduced Operation to minimize the risk of diseases associated with water.

  • Ensure ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible by opening windows and doors, using fans, or other methods. Do not open windows and doors if they pose a safety or health risk to people using the facility.

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