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Regional Reopening Dos and Don’ts, and Updates

May 27, 2020

As Friday’s planned reopening in Northern Virginia and the District is upon us, we are sharing quick updates, reminders, and resources as you make your plans. 

DC - Stage 1 Reopening - Friday May 29

Today, Mayor Bowser released the official order permitting reopening of the District under Stage 1 guidelines on Friday, May 29th. Click here for the Order.  Click here for the NEW Stage 1 Restaurant Guidance. As we expected, the Stage 1 Order includes that taverns, nightclubs and mixed-use facilities that serve food, and that are already approved to provide such outdoor service by ABRA, may also operate outdoor dining. The Mayor has tasked the agencies with providing additional clarity through rulemaking and we are looking to get details from the agencies in the next 24 hours, as we understand that they are providing clarifications that our industry specifically requested.  We know everyone is eager to prepare, but please try to be patient as the agencies move as quickly as possible. 

Below is a recap of guidance, but not a full breakdown, so make sure you are reading the new guidance in its entirety. 

In Stage 1, DC Restaurants, Taverns and Foodservice establishments CAN: 

  • Can continue takeout and delivery service
  • Can open for outdoor table service only, with physical distancing and safeguards in place
  • Safeguards include: 
    • Minimum physical distancing of at least six feet between tables
    • Use of masks in public spaces
    • Stringent sanitation and hygiene practices
  • Can seat parties of up to 6 guests
  • In this Stage, reservations are encouraged and dining records should be saved for at least 30 days. Customers should provide names and contact information and record time of arrival. 


Quick recap of newly released Stage 1 Guidance:  

  • Patrons should wear face coverings while not eating or drinking (e.g. while ordering food and prior to being served, and after completion of meal), and maintain 6 feet of distance from those not in your party.
  • Employees should wear proper face coverings while working and wash hands frequently, including before and after using the restroom, before serving food and beverages, and after removing used dishware, glassware, utensils, and napkins from tables.
  • Employees must wear gloves when handling ready-to-eat foods.
  • Employers should screen employees by assessing symptoms of workers (including fever) with a questionnaire, at the beginning of their shift, ideally before entering the facility or operation. Sick employees should not report to work.
  • All table items must either be single use and disposed of after use, or cleaned and sanitized between uses/table seatings. This includes digital ordering screens, utensils, dinnerware, drinkware, tablecloths, and napkin and condiment containers (i.e., any items that may have been touched by customers). 
  • Tables and chairs must be cleaned and disinfected after each seating, and check presenters are to be cleaned and disinfected after every use.
  • Restrooms must be cleaned and disinfected frequently and appropriately marked and monitored to ensure social distancing guidelines are followed. 
  • Again, Click here to review the NEW Stage 1 Restaurant Guidance.

In Stage 1, DC Restaurants, Taverns and Foodservice establishments CANNOT: 

  • Cannot utilize any seating indoors, even near windows or doors that open 
  • Cannot utilize buffets
  • Cannot seat parties larger than 6
  • Cannot permit standing or seating at an outdoor bar of any kind. ALL BAR SEATING IS PROHIBITED, unless noted otherwise in additional guidance offered by agency. 
  • Cannot allow people waiting to dine to congregate in a way that violates social distancing requirements

All operators should expect and be prepared for inspections by agencies as they will be pushing for compliance, especially as we enter Stage 1. The city wants to be collaborative with our industry to make sure everyone understands how this process should be done. 

Business Improvement Districts and Main Streets in DC will soon be distributing Reopen Starter Kits that will likely include masks, sanitizer and disinfectant for small businesses. This is not meant to get you through the entire stage, but will aid in the beginning weeks. We will have more information about how to sign up by tomorrow.  

Northern Virginia - Phase 1 Reopening - Friday May 29

Governor Northam announced yesterday that Phase 1 is moving forward in Northern Virginia jurisdictions for this Friday, May 29th. The Commonwealth mandated the use of masks for all individuals over the age of 10, at all times while entering, exiting, traveling through, or spending time in any indoor space, effective Friday.  This includes all food and beverage establishments.  People are exempt when eating and drinking at a food and beverage establishment, however in Phase 1 indoor eating and drinking is still prohibited. Businesses should enforce the wearing of masks for employees working indoors, for guests entering the restaurant to pick up takeout or to use restrooms, and while passing through indoor spaces to get to outdoor seating areas. 

This Order will be enforced by the VA Department of Health.  Additionally, the VA Department of Labor and Industry will draft COVID-19 Workplace Safety Emergency Guidelines for employers to help support employees re-entering the workforce. We will keep you posted on these details. 

Click here for VA Phase 1 Full Guidelines. Below is a recap of guidelines, but not a full breakdown, so refer to the link in full. 

In Phase 1, VA Restaurants, Taverns and Foodservice establishments CAN: 

  • Can continue takeout and delivery service
  • Can open for outdoor table service only. Occupancy must be limited to no more than 50% of the lowest occupancy load on the certificate of occupancy, if applicable.

Requirements include:

In Phase 1, VA Restaurants, Taverns and Foodservice establishments CANNOT:

  • Cannot seat parties larger than 10. 
  • Cannot seat multiple parties at one table, unless marked with 6-food divisions (such as with tape).
  • Cannot permit standing or seating at any bar areas, indoor or outdoor.
  • Cannot utilize any seating indoors, even near windows or doors that open. 
  • Cannot allow people waiting to dine to congregate in a way that violates social distancing requirements. No more than 10 people in a lobby waiting for takeout.  
  • Cannot open game areas, dance floors, or playgrounds in foodservice establishments
  • Cannot re-use menus.  Single-use disposable menus only.
  • Cannot allow self-service of food (except beverages), including condiments. Condiments must be removed from tables and dispensed by employees upon the request of a customer. 

Additional best practices and requirements for businesses are outlined here

Arlington County and Fairfax County will soon have a process in place to apply for temporary, extended outdoor seating permits.  We will share these links with you once they are available. 

Maryland - Stage 1 Reopening 

Maryland entered its Stage 1 of reopening on May 15th and Governor Hogan gave authority to county leaders to delay their timeline entering phases as needed.  Click here for the full Order. Stage 1 does not allow the reopening of restaurants beyond takeout and delivery service, in any jurisdiction, unlike DC and Northern Virginia.  In our region, Montgomery County and Prince Georges County both delayed entering Stage 1 based on data and number of cases.  Prince George’s County is aiming to enter a modified Stage One reopening by June 1 (Click here for more information). Montgomery County has not publicly announced a specific date, but again, Stage 1 does not change anything in regard to restaurant operations. Governor Hogan has not indicated when he will give an update about the state entering Stage 2, nor has he shared what Stage 2 permits, but has a 5:00pm press conference scheduled for today.  Our partners at the Restaurant Association of Maryland are monitoring the situation closely and are in close contact with Maryland leaders.  We will keep you up to date on any developments. 

Guidance To Date

As part of reopening guidance, some of you have asked for more information on protocol regarding employee and customer exposure to COVID-19.  Many organizations are creating their own response plan based on guidance from OSHA, CDC, and DOH. 

  • You may have seen Think Food Group shared their Reopening Handbook on Friday, which includes their internal response plan should an employee become ill. 
  • Click here for OSHA Workplace Guidance. 
  • Click here for the CDC’s Guidance for Businesses and Employers, which speaks directly to recommendations around how to trace back, notify, track, and whether to close or not. 

According to the CDC, in most cases, you do not need to shut down your facility, but there is recommended protocol that may result in you deciding to close for a period depending on the establishment and workspaces, and the ability to clean and disinfect while minimizing potential exposure. 

Furthermore, the DC Department Health shared these recommendations on Monitoring Employee Health: 

  • Employers should be aware of COVID-19 symptoms, as outlined on, and regularly monitor employees throughout their shift.
  • Notify DC Health immediately upon being notified of an employee testing positive for COVID-19 at
  • Exclude employee from facility until cleared by their healthcare provider to return to work.
  • Restrict employees from the food establishment that have come into contact with a positive case of COVID-19 for 14 days.
  • Clean and sanitize as outlined in the CDC guidance, found here
  • For free COVID-19 testing call 1 855 363 0333 (English)  1 844 796 2797 (Spanish)
  • Helpful Article: Your Employee Tested Positive for Covid-19. What Do You Do?

As we begin reopening slowly and gradually, we want to underscore that everyone has a role and shared responsibility to protect those around us which includes a shared responsibility between the patron and the operator, and between employers and employees. There is also a shared responsibility from our elected officials and agencies to position all of you for success during this uncertain time.  Our team is here to assist with questions as you navigate reopening.  As soon as we get the detailed guidance we will post and share.  Please continue to send your questions to for our team to address as quickly as possible.

Stay safe. Stay kind.