The Empire State Restaurant & Tavern Association has represented restaurants and bars throughout the State since 1935. These establishments have been closed for weeks, except for take-out and delivery, causing economic distress for the businesses and their hardworking employees. They’re anxious to reopen as soon as the health metrics outlined by the Governor are met.

We’ve drafted a plan to demonstrate the policies, procedures, and protocols we propose restaurants and bars follow in order to reopen (review the complete plan).  The key element of the plan is a phased reopening of restaurants and bars beginning when a region enters phase 2 (based on CDC Guidance):

  • Phase 2 – allow 50% occupancy of seated areas (dining areas), 25% occupancy of non-seated areas (bar areas)
  • Require all patrons to be seated during phase 2 (bar patrons must be in permanent or temporary seating)
  • Phase 3 – allow 100% occupancy of seated areas, 75% occupancy of outdoor non-seated areas, 50% occupancy of non-seated areas, patrons in non-seated areas must observe social distancing
  • Phase 4 – allow 100% occupancy in all areas, patrons in non-seated areas must observe social distancing

This is different than ESD’s current plan which has restaurants opening in phase 3. We don’t know why ESD put restaurants in phase 3. The CDC has had restaurants reopening in phase 2 since their first draft last month.

Our plan to reopen restaurants and bars requires businesses to ensure employee wellness, require social distancing by customers & employees, and institute enhanced cleaning protocols. In addition, our plan includes a method to identify patrons who have visited our establishments in order to support the State’s contact tracing program.

In order to make operating under these restrictions (which we expect to ongoing for some time) economically viable, the plan recommends several temporary modifications to the rules governing the sale of alcohol. Under our plan restaurants and bars would be allowed to extend their premises to outdoor areas or other unlicensed areas of their businesses so they can maintain social distancing while maximizing the number of patrons (up to the allowable capacity) limit. And our plan would authorize restaurants & bars to continue serving “cocktails-to-go” on a temporary basis as long as restrictions remain on their businesses. 

We commit to continuing our partnership with the State of New York to protect the health and safety of the state’s residents and visitors. Our recent work partnering with the Governor to distribute 900,000 donated cloth facemasks to foodservice and delivery workers across the state is the latest example of what can be accomplished when government partners with the private sector. We’re developing a Reopening Toolkit for Restaurants and Bars that helps guide these small businesses through the reopening process. We’ll make that available to restaurants and bars across New York State – whether they’re a member or not – as part of this continued partnership.

Our plan relies on guidance provided by the CDC and the FDA so our plan for reopening restaurants and bars is based on science and facts. It takes measured steps to loosen restrictions on restaurants and bars that take the necessary steps to protect the public health. And it’s consistent with the Governor’s objective to open up businesses in a safe and smart way.