COVID-19 Health Protocols and its Uses After the Pandemic
Updated: Oct 12, 2020
In response to the Covid Pandemic, the Governor's Office has released several executive orders and minimum standard health protocols for businesses to comply with. Although these protocols are required while the current executive orders are still in effect, businesses should at least have the ability to quickly reimplement them again in the future in case similar health protocols are imposed on businesses in the alcohol industry, and should consider adopting some of the health protocols permanently.
This article will detail some of the Governor's required health protocols and their potential future use even after the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided. Before discussing operating protocols, however, you may not be currently operating due to the governor’s Executive Order Ga-28.
If your location has permanent food service facilities (or a modified food truck) and less than 51% alcohol sales since April 1, 2020, or if you're willing to change your business model, one of our TABC attorneys may be able to help you reopen your business for dine-in services. This includes if you currently have a 51% red gun-sign. More details can be found at the end of this article.
Current Health Protocols
For restaurants, groups must maintain at least six feet between other groups or be separated by partitions. Groups are limited to a maximum of ten people. Restaurants may also only operate at 50% capacity, must provide a hand sanitizing station at points of entry, may only provide disposable menus, must frequently clean & disinfect frequently regularly touched surfaces and can only provide condiments upon request. Restaurants should also encourage and provide contactless payment when possible.
As for bars, the TABC released minimum protocols when bars were reopened in May 2020. Many of the above standards applied, but an additional restriction was that, except for entering & exiting the premises or visiting the restroom, patrons had to remain seated and six feet apart from other groups of less than 10 in order to be served. While bars are currently closed, these protocols are likely to apply upon reopening. If you are looking to be proactive, you should order barstools now to accommodate at least 50% of your capacity.
Post – COVID19
While these minimum standards were put in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these guidelines will likely remain in place even after a vaccine and viable treatment options are available for this strain of the coronavirus. With the potential for additional viruses, pandemics, or other emergencies, it may be beneficial to permanently adopt some of these health protocols, or at a minimum have the ability to readopt the health policies again in the future. Doing so could help keep your locations open and operating in a future pandemic or emergency. In addition, regular cleaning and disinfecting will reduce transmissions from being linked to your business operations. Many businesses had already established means to collect payment without any physical contact prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the technology available, contactless payment methods will likely to become more and more popular.
Since barstools can be moved around when easily, having enough on hand to cover half your normal maximum occupancy will help you prepare to operate your location during a future pandemic or emergency. Patrons remaining seated was a major concern to the TABC and health officials before to the re-closing of bars at the end of June through GA-28, and will likely be a highly enforced requirement if the Governor decides to do reopen bars in the near future. Masks will likely be required and highly enforced in bars as well, just as they are currently in restaurants.
If you're wondering about how to reopen your business, there may be some avenues available to operate as a restaurant for dine-in services under GA-28. If your location has permanent food service facilities (or a modified food truck) and less than 51% alcohol sales since April 1, 2020, or if you're willing to change your business model, a TABC attorney at Griffith & Hughes may be able to help you re-open. We currently have offices located in both Arlington and Houston.