Considerations for Restaurants and Bars: COVID-19 | Mann & Elias
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Considerations for Restaurants and Bars: COVID-19


The Coronavirus has wreaked havoc on American life, claiming over 200,000 lives and disrupting countless businesses. The hospitality industry has been hardest hit by COVID-19, and restaurants have been especially devastated by the pandemic since they are often crowded with people. Restaurants are places where people gather together to enjoy food, drink, and good company. They employ servers to bounce from table to table, conversing with guests and clearing away empty glasses and plates. They must also hire a kitchen staff to work in a hot and closely confined space. These are all things that help spread the virus, so restaurants have had to drastically change the way they operate to survive the pandemic.

As America and the world await a vaccine that will offer permanent protection against the virus, restaurants have changed the way they operate and organize to keep customers and workers safe. Adhering to CDC guidelines makes it possible to adapt to living with the virus. If you own and run a restaurant, you should take the steps necessary to keep your establishment free of COVID.

You should follow CDC precautions not only because it is morally right, but because your efforts to stop the spread of COVID will make your customers more comfortable and more likely to return. You should also do it to minimize the chances of being sued due to negligence in protecting employees and customers from the spread. In a time when many restaurants are suffering from lower revenue, being sued will endanger the future of your business even more. In these circumstances, it may be best to consult with an attorney who will protect not just you but the employer as well.

To protect the health and rights of your employees, you should consider the following guidance and ideas for your restaurant.

First Principles

The best way to deal with the COVID-19 crisis is to know the prevalence of the disease in your area and how it is trending. You should adjust your operations and service to meet the needs and circumstances of your community. When assessing risk, you should remember the following:

  • The lowest risk is to limit food service to drive-thru, delivery, take-out, and curb-side pick-up
  • There is more risk with dining indoors with seating capacity reduced, but tables that are not spaced at least 6 feet apart
  • The highest risk comes with indoor seating with seating capacity that is not reduced and tables that are not spaced at least 6 feet apart

COVID-19 is spread primarily through droplets distributed when people speak, cough, or sneeze. The virus can spread from hand-to-hand contact or through surfaces covered with the droplets of an infected person. Making the virus even more dangerous, it’s possible for someone to have it and spread it without experiencing any symptoms at all. It is for this reason that social distancing and wearing masks are so important. If you want to operate a safe restaurant, you should take measures to keep people away from one another.

Promoting the Right Behaviors

You should also promote behaviors that prevent the spread of the virus. Here are a few guidelines on that front:

  1. Stay home when necessary You should encourage employees who show symptoms or have been exposed to an infected person to stay home. Here, you will need to give people reassurances that they will not lose their jobs or be put at some other disadvantage by staying home and protecting their coworkers.
  2. Hygiene You should spend the money to place hand sanitizer dispensers throughout your restaurant. This will allow servers to keep their hands free of germs as they wait on various tables. It will allow customers to do the same thing. You should also encourage your employees to wash their hands regularly. In accordance with the best medical advice, hand washing should be done for 20 seconds using soap and water.

    You should also encourage your employees to cover their coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Used tissues should be immediately thrown in the trash and employees should wash their hands afterward.

    To keep your people safe, you must require the use of face masks. It is a good idea to distribute them for free to your employees. You should also provide accurate information on their proper use.

  3. Maintain a Healthy Environment

    If you offer limited dine-in, you must be aggressive and persistent in the cleaning and disinfection of your restaurant. If you are able to offer this type of service, you should make it so that customers do not have to share menus, condiment dispensers, or food containers by making the switch to digital menus and disposable utensils and condiments.

    Even if you offer take-out and curb-side service operation, door handles, cash registers, workstations, and bathrooms will still be frequented by your employees. These places must be cleaned regularly. Even tables that go unused should be wiped down throughout the day.

    You should develop a schedule for routine cleaning and disinfection. You should also train staff on proper cleaning procedures to ensure that disinfectants are applied safely and effectively.

    You will also need to ensure that your ventilation systems operate correctly. The best way to prevent an outbreak in your restaurant is to increase the circulation of outdoor air.

Putting People First

The best way to protect your business is to protect your workers. You will need to develop plans to cope with employees who fall ill and those who may need time off to help loved ones who have contracted the virus.

An employment attorney in Los Angeles can help you develop good policy. New legislation is working its way through communities throughout the state in response to COVID-19.  Legal professionals can help you keep up to date on how these laws will affect your business.

You should also consult a Los Angeles lawyer for employment during COVID-19 to ensure that you are not infringing the existing rights of your employees. Although flexibility is key to getting through the crisis, make sure that you are not vulnerable to lawsuits either by customers and employees.

If you are earnest about balancing the needs of your business with the rights of your employees, then you may need the help of a lawyer. They can provide advice and best practices, as it’s better to be safe than sorry in these precarious times.


Since 1998, Mann & Elias has served the counties of Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Ventura. With over $18 million in settlements and verdicts, and nearly 100 jury and bench trials under their belts, Scott Mann and Imad Elias have the proven ability to provide exceptional legal care in all areas of employment litigation. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.


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