State Issues Guidance for Phase 3 Indoor Dining – Updates Outdoor Dining Rules

The State has issued guidance for indoor bar & dining service once your region enters Phase 3. The indoor service guidance is nearly identical to the provisions for outdoor service, but indoor service is restricted to 50% of your maximum occupancy, not including your employees. The State has also updated the guidance for outdoor service – allowing outdoor service with permanent or fixed coverings as long as the area is completely open on at least two sides. This guidance covers bars, clubs, restaurants, and other foodservice businesses. Let’s review the details.


When Can You Reopen Indoor Bar & Dining Service?

June 12 – Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, North Country, and Southern Tier

June 16 – Western New York

June 17 – Capital District

June 23 – Mid-Hudson

June 24 – Long Island

July   6 – New York City

The Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, North Country, and Southern Tier regions will enter Phase 3 on June 12th. Western New York and the Capital District appear on track to open as scheduled above. Please note that these are projected dates and they could change – the Governor has begun accelerating reopening so hope springs eternal!

What Are the Rules for Reopening Indoor Bar & Dining Service?

The State just issued the guidelines for operating indoor areas of restaurants and bars and they’re very similar to the guidelines for outdoor service. The big difference, noted above, is the 50% limit on your indoor occupancy. The State calculates this as 50% of your maximum occupancy under your certificate of occupancy – not your indoor seating capacity. Your maximum occupancy should be significantly higher than your indoor seating capacity. When making this determination you do not need to include your staff towards the occupancy limit.

The State has prepared a summary of the guidance for indoor dining and they’ve posted detailed guidance for indoor dining. Just like with outdoor service, you need to a safety plan to document how you’re going to implement the guidance. The State has provided this template for you.

State Updates Guidance for Outdoor Bar & Dining Service?

One of the things that’s been a constant under the State of Emergency over the past few months is that everything is always changing. It’s become quite common for guidance to be updated – either tweaked or significantly altered. And that’s the case with the guidance for outdoor bar & dining service.

The original guidance prohibited outdoor service under any permanent roof structure or similar covering – regardless if there were any walls around the outdoor dining area. This disqualified a lot of outdoor dining areas from use merely because they have a permanent overhead covering. We brought this to the Governor’s Office and with the help of a number of allies around the state persuaded them to change the guidance.

Under the revised guidance you can now allow outdoor bar & dining service under permanent awnings, roofs, or similar coverings as long as the area is open on at least two sides. Smoking in these covered outdoor areas is not banned under state law, but may be prohibited by your County Health Department. Smoking is permitted at other outdoor tables, subject to the State’s Clean Indoor Air Act.