CDC releases official guidelines for safe practices when restaurants, bars reopen

As states begin to lift restrictions for non-essential businesses, restaurants and bars are grappling with how to reopen while keeping both employees and customers safe.

On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines instructing certain organizations on how to safely open their doors.


The one-page “decision tool” documents were released by the CDC on Thursday and provided detailed information for service-based facilities like restaurants and bars, among other establishments, on reopening.

The one-page flowchart for food-service businesses outlines a series of protocols those establishments will have to follow in order to open. The sheet identifies requirements such as “handwashing and employees wearing a cloth face covering, as feasible” and instructions to “intensify cleaning, sanitization, disinfection, and ventilation.” The businesses are also expected to “encourage social distancing” and “enhance spacing” by positioning stools or tables away from each other and continuing to encourage customers to order take-out food instead of dining in.

Restaurants and bars will need to limit occupancy and group sizes in line with local and state mandates, and create distancing for employees in shared spaces.

In addition, restaurants and bars will have to implement procedures to check employees for symptoms, including possible temperature checks when they arrive for a shift. There must also be a plan in place for if an employee gets sick. To that end, businesses that reopen will have to monitor employee absences, and report positive cases.

A more extensive version regarding reopening guidance has reportedly been drafted, but not released, The Associated Press reported.

That longer document, which the AP obtained, would give different organizations specifics about how to reopen while still limiting the spread of the virus, and include instructions on spacing workers six feet apart, and closing break rooms and cafeterias to limit gatherings. Many of the suggestions already appear on federal websites but have yet to be presented as reopening advice.