EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- If the restaurant variance for El Paso County is approved by state health officials, it would mean restaurants would have to do away with table-side service and buffets while implementing several changes.
On Thursday, the county restaurant variance was unanimously approved by commissioners. In the document, it outlines what each restaurant has to do to allow dine-in services. Some of the regulations include tables being six feet apart, workers wearing masks, one-time use menus and condiments, limited seating, frequent cleanings of high touch areas and more.
For Billy's Old World Pizza, owner Jim Hendershott said he knew these changes were going to happen, but what he didn't know was that customers will have to reserve a table ahead of time before they can be seated, according to the variance.
The variance also says restaurants will have to take names and numbers down of customers, document which table they sit at, and what times they enter and leave. Owners have to hold onto that information for 21 days in case a customer reports having COVID-19.
One big change Hendershott will have to implement is changing how his buffet is run, since the the variance states customers cannot go to the buffet themselves.
“It’s almost going to be like another restaurant,” Hendershott said.
For Hendershott, the buffet is just a small aspect of his restaurant. But for general manager Adam Potter of Tucanos Brazilian Grill, buffet and table-side service is what their restaurant is all about.
“We love bringing the skewers of meat out to the table," said Potter. "Since that cannot happen, we plan on adapting and doing everything we have to do or need to do to make sure we’re keeping everybody safe."
However, both say safety of their customers is what they're focusing on and they will follow these changes in the name of public health.
Below is the full list of what restaurants need to accomplish, as outlined in the variance:
- Seating capacity
- All seating shall be structured so as to ensure a minimum of 6 feet between occupied seats at different tables.
- Total occupancy of customers both inside and outside the facility shall be limited to the lowest of the following measurements:
- Total maximum of 50 customers; OR
- Customer occupancy that ensures a minimum of 6 feet between seats at different tables; OR
- 30% fire occupancy load Monday-Thursday or 50% fire occupancy load Friday-Sunday.
If a facility feels it can safely exceed the above limits, it may submit a proposed plan to El Paso County Public Health (Public Health) for review and approval that explains how seating areas will be properly social distanced and broken into fully separated seating areas.
- No new outdoor seating areas other than those in previously approved through the licensing process may be created.
- Groups seated together shall be limited to 10 people and must be from same household or consistent social group.
- Seating processes
- Facilities are required to take reservations, either by phone or electronically.
- Walk-in reservations may also be accepted. The use of pagers or phone calls to advise of table availability is required, as congregating in waiting areas or outside of the doors such that 6-foot separation between groups cannot be maintained is prohibited. If pagers are used, they must be cleaned and disinfected after each use.
- Restaurants are encouraged to record and maintain the following information for each table seated for twenty-one (21) days:
- Name and phone number of one adult in the party
- Table assignment
- Seating and departure times
If maintained, such information shall be provided to Public Health upon request.
- Seating at bar areas is not permitted unless a minimum of 6-foot distancing between staff and customers can be maintained.
- Common-use items and areas
- Multiple-use condiment containers are prohibited. Only single-use items may be provided. Linens may be used for a tablecloth and napkins so long as they are replaced between customers with a properly laundered set.
- Menus should be single use, posted on menu boards, or otherwise displayed in such a way that customers cannot touch them.
- Do not pre-set tables.
- Buffets may not be self-serve by customers; only plated or carry-out/delivery meals provided to customers by staff are allowed. Buffets must be at least six (6) feet from any dining tables.
- Preparing food at tableside is not allowed (ex: tableside guacamole, slicing/portioning meat on skewers).
- Conduct a menu review and consider reducing the number of or modifying menu items to ensure proper safety of employees and customers.
- Tabletops and non-porous chair surfaces shall be cleaned and disinfected between customer seating.
- Doorknobs, counter tops, bathrooms, handles, railings, and other high-touch areas shall be cleaned and disinfected every 2 hours.
- Social distancing must be maintained in bathrooms.
- Employees who routinely or consistently come within six (6) feet of other employees or customers must wear a cloth face covering over their noses and mouths, unless doing so would inhibit the employee’s health.
- Facilities must make every effort to provide employees with cloth face coverings.
- Cloth face coverings should fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face, include multiple layers of fabric, allow for breathing without restriction, and be able to be laundered and machine-dried without damage or change to shape.
- Employees who prepare or handle food that will be made available to the public for purchase must wear a face covering while performing tasks involving food preparation and handling. Notwithstanding the foregoing, employees for whom wearing a face covering presents a particular danger, such as but not limited to fry cooks or cooks using a grill, are not required to wear a face covering while performing such tasks.
- If a facility as a whole has been closed or particular areas or equipment have not operated for an extended period, the following must be completed before reopening:
- Flush water and soda lines for at least 5 minutes.
- Go through all food storage areas and discard any items that are expired.
- Deep clean and disinfect the facility.
- Contact food distributors to ensure availability of critical items to include hand sanitizer, cleaning, and disinfection supplies.
- If two or more probable or confirmed COVID-19 cases are associated with the facility in a 14-day period, the facility shall, at Public Health’s request, close long enough to work with Public Health on determining risk and appropriate steps towards reopening. These steps may include:
- Conducting a suspect outbreak investigation using records of patrons and table assignments.
- Implementing enhanced cleaning and disinfection.
- Review of the above protocols by Environmental Health for compliance.
- If a restaurant has significant concerns regarding a patron exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19 infection, it is encouraged to ask the individual and/or party to leave the premises.