What to Expect When You’re Inspected:
NYC Indoor and Outdoor Dining Checklist for Participating Establishments
The Open Restaurants Program is designed to expand outdoor seating options for food establishments to promote open space, enhance social distancing, and help them rebound in these difficult economic times. As of the end of September, over ten thousand New York City restaurants are participating in the Open Restaurants Program.
On September 25, Mayor de Blasio announced that the Open Restaurants program will be extended year-round and made permanent. This extension also applies to Open Streets: Restaurants, which currently offers restaurants expanded space on 85 car-free streets citywide on certain days.Furthermore, starting on September 30, New York City restaurants and food-serving establishments will be able to provide indoor dining at a limited capacity.
Please be sure that you have reviewed each requirement and that you have incorporated all of them into your indoor and outdoor setups, as well as your daily operations. All guidance is subject to change, so please make sure to continually review updates from City and State agencies.
Important Notes on Inspections
Your establishment may be visited by inspectors from different State and City agencies.
For example, an inspector from the State’s multi-agency task force -- led by the State Police and State Liquor Authority, or any City agency, including the Department of Buildings, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Office of Special Enforcement, the New York City Sheriff, or others may inspect your establishment for compliance with the State and City requirements listed on page 2. All pre-existing health and safety laws and guidelines still apply and you may also be inspected for compliance with those rules
- Inspector Identification
However, no matter which agency inspectors are from, you may ask them to show government employee identification, give you the name of their agency, as well as the purpose of the inspection. In addition, no inspector will request a payment during an inspection.
- After Your Inspection
Once your establishment is found to be in full compliance with the Open Restaurants
requirements, please continue to check with City and State agencies for any updates on
requirements to ensure that your establishment continues to be in compliance. You may visit the NYC Restaurant Reopening Guide web page for updated guidelines and rules.
Responding to NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) Open Restaurants inspections
Establishments not in compliance with the Open Restaurants requirements will receive both a paper notice and an email with instructions on next steps.
If you have been inspected regarding the Open Restaurants requirements and have NOT received follow-up instructions;
Please visit Respond to Restaurant Inspection and provide the following information:
- Copy of “24-hour Notice” or “Cease and Desist” order
- Name of your establishment
- Legal name of business
- Business address
- Phone number
- Email address
- Corrected “before and after” photographs
NYC Dining Guideline Updates
For the latest NYC dining regulations and guidelines please visit: nyc.gov/restaurantreopening
*Note: NYS guidelines are subject to change at anytime, so make sure to continually review
updates from City and State agencies.
NY State Indoor Dining Requirements
These are the mandates from the New York State Department of Health Interim Guidance for New York City. Indoor Food Services. Be sure to also review the detailed guidelines, affirm compliance and develop a safety plan before you start.
- Limit indoor capacity to no more than 25% of maximum occupancy, exclusive of employees
- Conspicuously post the number of patrons that constitutes 25%, making such posting visible to patrons inside and outside of the restaurant;
- Only permit entrance to employees or patrons if they have their temperature taken before or immediately upon entering the establishment and have a temperature no greater than 100.0°F (as described below in the “Screening” section); and
- Limit the number of patrons to any event at the food services establishment to the lesser of 25% of maximum occupancy or the current social gathering restriction that is in effect for New York City
- Ensure patrons wear face coverings at all times, except while seated; provided that the patron is over the age of 2 and able to medically tolerate such covering
- Indoor tables with seating for customers must be separated by a minimum of 6 ft. in all directions. Where distancing is not feasible, erect physical barriers between such tables. These barriers must be at least 5 ft. in height and must not block emergency/fire exits.
- Prohibit seating and service at bars
- Bars may be used only for employees to prepare beverages to be served to customers at their table
- Prohibit the use of small spaces (e.g., freezers) by more than one individual at a time, unless all employees are wearing face coverings. Occupancy must never exceed 25% of maximum capacity
- Implement measures to reduce bi-directional foot traffic
- Stop serving food and beverages to customers between 11pM-5AM
- Customers may be permitted to remain seated after midnight for 30 minutes after service ends, only for the purpose of finishing their meal
- Ensure buffets are not self-serve and are sufficiently staffed to ensure there is no customer touching of common objects (e.g., serving spoons, tongs) and that social distance is maintained
- No more than 10 people may be seated per table
- Individuals must be members of the same party but may be from different households
- Members may arrive, be seated, and depart at different times, so long as their interactions remain limited to only other party members
- Communal tables are only permitted if 6 ft. can be maintained between parties.
- Strictly monitor control and flow of traffic into and within the establishment to ensure adherence to capacity and social distancing requirements, and at all times maintain an accurate count of current capacity to ensure it does not exceed 25%
- Ensure that employees who are bussing tables wash their hands with soap/water and, if they wear gloves, replace the gloves before and after cleaning tables
- If employees wear gloves during non-food preparation activities, ensure they replace gloves frequently, and encourage them to change gloves when switching tasks (e.g., serving customers to pre-rolling silverware).
- If employees do not wear gloves, ensure they frequently wash and/or sanitize their hands
- Provide employees with an acceptable face covering at no-cost to the employee
- Only permit customer entry into the establishment if they wear an acceptable face covering; provided that the customer is over age 2 and medically able to tolerate such covering
- Clean, replace, and prohibit sharing of face coverings
- Consult CDC guidance for additional information
- Train employees on how to don, doff, clean (as applicable), and discard PPE
- Ensure that all staff wear face coverings at all times and that staff practice hand hygiene and use bare hand barriers consistent with State and Local Sanitary Codes
- Require customers to wear face coverings when not seated at a table
- (e.g., when waiting for pickup, placing order at counter/window, walking to/ from table, walking to/from restroom)
- Customers should be encouraged to wear face coverings when they are not eating or drinking
Air Filtration and Ventilation Systems
The requirements for air filtration and ventilations systems differ based on each system’s configuration and abilities. Please determine what type of HVAC system your establishment uses (A, B, or C) and review the requirements for your type below.
A) For establishments with central air handling systems:
Ensure central HVAC system filtration meets the highest rated filtration compatible with the currently installed filter rack and air handling systems. Filtration must be at a minimum MERV-13, or equivalent or greater (e.g., HEPA), as applicable, and as documented by a certified HVAC technician, professional, or company, ASHRAE-certified professional, certified retro-commissioning professional, or New York licensed professional building engineer.
B) For establishments with central air handling systems that cannot handle the above-mentioned minimum level of filtration (i.e., MERV-13 or greater):
Have a certified HVAC technician, professional, or company, ASHRAE- certified professional, certified retro-commissioning professional, or New York licensed professional building engineer certify and document that the currently installed filter rack is incompatible with the above-mentioned minimum level of filtration (i.e.,MERV13 or greater) and/or the handling system would be unable to perform the minimum heating and cooling that it was otherwise able to provide prior to the COVID-19 emergency if such a high degree of filtration was installed.
Retain such documentation for review by state or local health department officials to operate at a lesser filtration rating with additional ventilation and air filtration mitigation protocols.
- Adopt additional ventilation and/or filtration mitigation protocols per CDC and ASHRAE, including:
- Perform necessary retro-commissioning of central systems, as well as testing, balancing, and repairs as needed;
- Increase ventilation rates and outdoor air ventilation to the extent possible;
- Keep systems running for longer hours, especially for several hours daily before and after occupancy;
- Disable demand-controlled ventilation, and maintain systems that increase fresh air supply;
- Maintain relative humidity between 40-60% where possible;
- Open outdoor air dampers to reduce or eliminate recirculation to the extent possible;
- Seal edges of the filter to limit bypass;
- Regularly inspect systems and filters to ensure they are properly operating, and filters are installed, serviced and within service life;
- Open windows to the extent allowable for occupant safety and comfort;
- Install appropriately designed and deployed ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) to deactivate airborne virus particles; and/or
- Using portable air cleaners (e.g., electric HEPA units), considering units that provide highest air change rate at appropriate performance level and do not generate harmful byproducts.
C) For establishments that DO NOT have central air handling systems or without the ability to control them, adopt additional ventilation and air filtration mitigation protocols per CDC and ASHRAE recommendations, including
- Regularly inspect any room ventilation systems (e.g., window units, wall units) to ensure they are properly operating, and filters are appropriately installed, serviced and within service life.
- Keep any room ventilation systems running for longer hours, especially for several hours daily before and after occupancy;
- Set room ventilation systems to maximize fresh air intake, set blower fans to low speed and point away from occupants to the extent possible;
- Maintain relative humidity between 40-60% where possible;
- Open windows to the extent allowable for occupant safety and comfort;
- Set any ceiling fans to draw air upwards away from occupants, if applicable;
- Prioritize window fans to exhaust indoor air;
- Avoid using fans that only recirculate air or only blow air into a room without providing for exhaust;
- Install appropriately designed and deployed ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) to deactivate airborne virus particles; and/or
- Use portable air cleaners (e.g., electric HEPA units), considering units that provide highest air change rate at appropriate performance level and do not generate harmful byproducts.
- Provide and maintain hand hygiene stations
- You may include hand-washing with soap, running warm water, and disposable paper towels, as well as an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing 60% or more alcohol for areas where hand-washing is not available or practical. Make hand sanitizer available throughout high-touch areas.
- Regularly clean and disinfect the establishment and more frequently clean and disinfect high risk areas used by many individuals and for frequently touched surfaces (e.g., restrooms)
- Cleaning and disinfection must be rigorous and ongoing and should occur at least after each shift, daily, or more frequently if needed.
- Complete pre-return checks and assessments of kitchen systems to ensure a healthy and safe environment
- Minimize sharing of kitchen equipment between staff (e.g., knives, pots, rags/towels), where possible
- Adhere to hygiene, cleaning, and disinfection requirements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Health (DOH) and maintain logs that document date, time, and scope of cleaning
- Ensure that equipment is regularly cleaned and disinfected using registered disinfectants, including at least as often as employees change workstations
- Refer to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) list of products registered in New York State and identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as effective against COVID-19.
- Do not provide customers with devices (e.g., buzzers), unless they are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between each use
- For take-out/delivery:
- Provide hand hygiene stations for customers waiting for food and/or drinks;
- Ensure staff wash hands with soap/water or use hand sanitizer; if staff use gloves, regularly replace them; and
- If pick-up/delivery is indoors, ensure windows/doors are opened to allow for ventilation.
- If non-disposable menus are used, clean and disinfect the menus between each party’s use
- Use pre-packaged silverware or pre-rolled silverware. Silverware must be pre-rolled while wearing masks and gloves. Unwrapped straws/toothpicks are prohibited
- Prohibit employees from sharing food and beverages among themselves, encourage them to bring lunch from home, and reserve adequate space for them to observe distancing while eating
- If employees are eating indoors at a table normally reserved for customer use, they may remove facemask while eating or drinking, but must utilize the mask if they stand or move from the table, and will be counted as part of the 25% for such dining area. An employee who is able to eat a meal in nonpublic area of the restaurant may be excluded from such capacity
- Ensure all condiments provided directly to customers are in single-use disposable containers or reusable containers that are regularly cleaned/disinfected
- If cleaning or disinfecting products causes hazards or degrades materials/machinery, put in place hand hygiene stations for between use and/or supply disposable gloves and/or limitations on the number of employees using such machinery.
- Conspicuously post for employees and patrons inside and outside the restaurant:
- The number of patrons that constitutes 25% capacity in the establishment; and
- The phone and text number to report violations: individuals who observe violations can report issues by calling 833-208-4160 or by texting ‘VIOLATION’ to 855-904-5036.
- Affirm you have reviewed and understand the state issued industry guidelines, and that you will implement them
- Develop a communications plan for employees, vendors, and customers with instructions, training, signage and a consistent means to provide information
Establishments offering indoor dining are required to maintain employee-vendor and customer contact logs for the purposes of contact tracing. Businesses must maintain each daily log for a minimum of 28 days and make it available to the NYS Department of Health and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene upon request.
Covid-19 Customer Log Template
Covid-19 Employee-Vendor Log Template
- Do not keep records of employee or customer health data (e.g., the specific temperature data of an individual), but records to confirm individuals were screened (e.g., pass/fail, cleared/not cleared) may be maintained
- In addition to the required temperature checks mentioned above, implement mandatory daily health screening practices of employees and, where practicable, vendors, but such screening shall not be mandated for customers and delivery personnel Screening must ask about, at minimum:
- (1) COVID-19 symptoms in past 14 days,
- (2) positive COVID-19 diagnostic test in past 14 days,
- (3) close contact with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 case in past 14 days; and/or
- (4) travel within a state with significant community spread of COVID-19 for longer than 24 hours within the past 14 days.
- Require staff and customers to complete a temperature check before or immediately upon arriving at the establishment
- Any individual with a temperature greater than 100.0°F must not be permitted to enter, whether they are an employee or patron. Temperature checks must be conducted in accordance with U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission or DOH guidelines.
- Require at least 1 person from each customer party to sign-in upon entering the establishment (or prior via remote sign-in), providing the full name, address, and phone number for use in contact tracing efforts.
- Designate a central point of contact to attest to having reviewed all questionnaires and for individuals to inform if they are later experiencing symptoms
- Any employee, vendor, or patron who screens positive for COVID-19 symptoms must not be allowed to enter the premises
- Refer to DOH travel advisory for the most up to date information on states with significant spread of COVID19 and quarantine requirements.
NYC Health Dept. Indoor Dining Requirements
This section outlines requirements of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for Indoor Dining.
Restaurants and other food service establishments can reopen for indoor dining in NYC beginning September 30, 2020. Before reading this section, please refer to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s (NYC Health Department) Reopening New York City: What Food Service Establishments Need to Know About Indoor Dining for more information regarding New York State (NYS) guidelines, how to prevent COVID-19 transmission, how to reopen your business and other topics.
For additional up-to-date guidance, please visit the Department’s COVID-19: Guidance for Businesses and Schools web page.
- Maximize outdoor air flow through the ventilation system
- Make sure all equipment, including cooking, hot and cold holding, and refrigeration units are working properly and are able to maintain appropriate temperatures
- Flush cold water from all outlets, such as faucets and spray nozzles. Then do the same for hot water outlets
- Make sure hand-washing facilities are functioning and properly stocked with soap and paper towels
- Thoroughly clean and disinfect all non-food contact areas of the restaurant, including restrooms and waiting areas (see General Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting for Non- Health Care Settings)
- Make sure utilities are working properly, including electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, gas, exhaust hood and fire suppression systems
- Flush water line, and clean and sanitize all food equipment that uses plumbing, according to manufacturer instructions
- Use EPA-registered sanitizers and disinfectants effective against COVID-19
- Empty ice bins, and wash, rinse and sanitize them
- Check all stored foods and appropriately discard anything that is no longer safe
- Resume needed services that may have been discontinued, such as pest control, trash and recycling services
- Make needed repairs to physical facilities, including floors, walls and ceilings
- Clean and sanitize all food contact surfaces
- Check the product label to make sure the sanitizer is safe to use on surfaces and equipment that touch food. Remember that products for cleaning and sanitizing food contact surfaces differ from those for non-food contact surfaces.
- Look for signs of pests and address any issues observed (see Best Practices for Pest Proofing Food Service Establishments)
- Check all supplies and restock as needed
Outdoor Dining Guidelines
Governor’s Executive Orders for Outdoor Dining
Under Governor’s Executive Order 202.43, in addition to such businesses’ supervisory obligations under existing laws, ordinances, rules, and regulations, all businesses shall be further required to inspect, monitor, and otherwise supervise the area within 100 feet of the licensed premises to ensure that any consumption of food or beverage comports with the applicable open container ordinances, and the social distancing and face covering requirements set forth for such business or service in any applicable Executive Order, regulation, ordinance, law, New York State Department of Health guidance, and/or State Liquor Authority guidance.
Under the Governor’s Executive Order 202.52, all businesses that are licensed by the State Liquor Authority for on premises service of alcoholic beverages, and which are required as a license condition to make food available, shall serve alcoholic beverages for on premises consumption or for off premises consumption only if the service of such alcoholic beverage is accompanied by the purchase of a food item by each individual that is being served an alcoholic beverage, consistent with the food availability requirement of the license under the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law.
NY State Safety Outdoor Dining Guidelines
This section outlines items that are required by the NYS Department of Health Interim Guidance for Outdoor and Take-out/Delivery Food Service.
Please continue to regularly check the New York Forward site for guidance that is applicable to your business or certain parts of your business functions, and consult the city, state, and federal resources listed at the end of this document.
- Develop and conspicuously post a copy of your business’s Covid-19 Reopening Safety Plan on premise
- Under the NYS Department of Health Interim Guidance for Outdoor and Take-Out/ Delivery Food Service, restaurants and bars must develop a written Safety Plan outlining how its workplace will prevent the spread of Covid-19. A business may fill out this template to fulfill the requirement, or may develop its own Safety Plan.
- This plan does not need to be submitted to a state agency for approval but must be conspicuously posted on site and made available to the New York State Department of Health (DOH) or New York City health or safety authorities upon request
- Maintain a record indicating a health screening process in place for employees (See NYS Safety Plan Template for example)
- Implement markings 6 feet apart where people would be forming lines or gathering
- Create designated area for vendor pickups and deliveries
- Maintain a log stating the date, time, and scope of cleaning and disinfection
- Signage at the site to remind personnel to adhere to proper hygiene, social distancing rules, appropriate use of PPE, and cleaning and disinfecting protocols
- Hand-washing facility provided near food preparation area and toilet room
- Hot and cold running water must be at an adequate pressure to enable cleanliness of employees. Soap and an acceptable hand-drying device must also be provided.
- Additionally, businesses should make hand sanitizer available throughout high touch areas (e.g. outside restrooms) and in convenient locations, such as at entrances, exits, cashiers. Touch-free hand sanitizer dispensers should be installed where possible.
Personal Protective Equipment
This section outlines New York State’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) requirement.
- Provide employees with acceptable face coverings at no-cost to employees; ensure that employees wear face coverings; and have an adequate supply of coverings.
- Free face coverings for your employees: The Departments of Small Business Services and Consumer and Worker Protection, and our partners are distributing over 2 million face coverings at no cost to small business owners and their employees. Visit www1.nyc.gov/nycbusiness/article/free-face-coverings to learn more.
NYC Open Restaurants Program Requirements
This section outlines requirements of the NYC Department of Transportation’s NYC Open Restaurants Program.
Food service establishments wishing to place outdoor seating in front of their establishment on the sidewalk and/or roadway must apply for permission from the NYC Department of Transportation.
Note that all businesses wishing to offer outdoor seating, even those with pre-existing sidewalk cafe permits, must self-certify with DOT for the Open Restaurant program. You do not need to apply to place outdoor seating on private property, but you must apply to SLA if your license does not allow you to use this additional space.
- Apply and obtain certificate authorizing approval for the NYC Open Restaurants Program
- Outdoor seating areas may not exceed business frontage
- Tables and chairs must be provided by the operating business
- Wherever social distancing is not feasible between tables, place physical barriers between such tables. Address the NYS Outdoor Takeout Delivery and Food Services Summary Guidance document for further information.
- Provide a ramp for ADA compliance, which can be made of non-permanent materials
- Only utilize umbrellas with a weighted base or properly secured tents
- Umbrellas may not extend past the barrier or obstruct access to ventilation of utility covers. Tents or other shelters must be less than 400 SF each in area. Please consult DOB Bulletin 2020-013 for further information.
- Temporary lighting, such as festoon lighting, is allowed.
- Use only outdoor-use extension cords, with accessible, protective covers when placed across the sidewalks, and install properly to prevents tripping hazards. Follow manufacturers safety instructions. Please consult DOB Bulletin 2020-013 for further information.
- Remove tables and chairs or secure them in place when not in operation
- As a reminder, outdoor dining hours of operation are Monday–Saturday: 8am to 11pm, Sunday: 10am to 11pm
- Comply with NYC Fire Department Open Flame and other applicable Fire Code requirements
Outdoor Seating, Sidewalk
- Seating and tables must be up against the wall of the business or as close as possible
- Leave a clear path for pedestrians that is 8 feet wide. For clear path purposes, parking meters, traffic signs and tree pits with flush gratings (without tree guards) are exempt.
- Seating must be at least 3 feet from the adjacent business
- Operations are not blocking subway grate, utility hardware or Siamese water connection
- Operations are not blocking bus stop waiting area
- There are no other above-grade structures that could be considered obstructions
- Create a protective barrier, on all three sides of the seating perimeter that are in the roadway, to separate seating from the travel lane
- Such barriers must be at least 18 inches in width and 30 to 36 inches in height (excluding plantings) on all three sides that are in the roadway, to preserve visibility for motorists and provide protection for patrons
- Place such barriers directly adjacent to each other(i.e. with no gaps) and no more than 8 feet from the curb
- Clearly marking all barriers with yellow high intensity retro-reflective tape or reflectors to ensure visibility of patrons and barriers at night
- Ensure that seating or barriers are NOT within 15 feet of a fire hydrant
- Ensure that any lighting that is NOT blinding to passing traffic
- Do NOT place seating within a No Stopping Anytime or No Standing Anytime zone, bike lane, bus lane/stop, taxi stand, or Car Share space
- Exception: For part-time No Stopping or No Standing zones, seating may be placed when those rules are not in effect. Barriers and seating must be removed from the roadway when No Stopping or No Standing is in effect.
- Ensure seating or barriers are NOT within 8 feet of a crosswalk, to provide for safe vehicle turns and avoid crowding
DOT Winterization Mandates for Outdoor Dining
This section outlines items for your outdoor dining set up that are mandated by the NYC Department of Transportation. Additional guidance regarding siting criteria can be downloaded here.
Roadway Barriers & Enclosures
- Barriers must have a fully built interior wall and bottom to hold filler material and must be completely filled with soil or sand
- A plastic water-filled barrier in front of the roadway barrier facing oncoming traffic is required for a majority of restaurants (High-priority restaurants have been contacted separately to confirm this requirement applies to them.)
- Continuous reflector tape must be added along the top outside edges, and snow sticks must be added to the corners of the two barriers facing traffic
- Enclosures with temporary or fixed cover (i.e. awning, roof or tent) must have at least two open sides for airflow
- Enclosed structures, such as plastic domes, must have adequate ventilation to allow for air circulation
- Only electrical heaters are allowed within the roadway setups
During an active snow alert
This section outlines items for your outdoor dining set up that are mandated by the NYC Department of Transportation during active City-issued snow alerts. Additional guidance from the NYC Department of Sanitation can be viewed here.
- Diners may not sit in roadway setups. Tables and chairs in roadway must be removed or secured.
- At minimum, regularly remove snow from overhead coverings until the snow alert ends.
- All electrical heaters in roadway setups must be removed
This section outlines accessibility items that are required by the Americans with Disabilities Accessibility Act (ADA).
- Toilet facility provided for employees and/or patrons when required
- Restrooms must comply with ADA regulations when applicable. If your business had to provide restroom access to customers pre-Covid then you must continue to provide access when seating outdoors.
- Businesses must have in place an ADA ramp in the curb lane seating area AND a minimum of 5 percent ADA-compliant tables in both sidewalk and curb lane seating areas
More detailed information
Important Links and Resources
Establishments must still meet previously existing health and safety laws and requirements to
operate. Below are links to guidance on what to expect from agencies on their routine inspections as provided by the City and State Agencies.
- Common Fines and Violations
- NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
- NYC Department of Buildings
- NYC Fire Department
- NYC Department of Environmental Protection
- Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities
- The NYC Department of Buildings inspects establishments for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities provides resources for small businesses to help their establishment meet compliance.
- ADA Resources
- NYS Liquor Authority
A multi-agency task force, comprising the NYC Departments of Small Business Services, Transportation, Health, and the Offices of Nightlife and Special Enforcement, has created this checklist for participating establishments to help participants comply with program-specific and Covid-19 health and safety requirements, and prepare for inspections.
We hope that with this Checklist, you will feel more confident in your operations and your ability to assure your workers’ and patrons’ safety. Following this Checklist is the best way for New York and our beloved hospitality industry to keep moving forward together.