Outdoor restaurant dining resumes in Santa Clara County

Nearly 12 weeks after shuttering, restaurant dining is making its comeback in Santa Clara County Friday.

It has been a tough spring, with many restaurants relying on takeout and delivery through the COVID-19 pandemic. That is if they have been open at all.

The county’s most recent health order, taking effect today, permits outdoor dining at restaurants. The order still prohibits in-restaurant dining, despite being the case in other parts of the state.

And, there are significant limitations, as health officials caution against continued spread of the deadly virus.

“There are some parameters that we’re asking people to follow,” Michael Balliet, Director of the County’s Environmental Health Department said.

A number of cities in the area are examining how to provide expanded outdoor space for restaurants to reopen. That may include temporary use permits that allow restaurants to occupy otherwise public areas like sidewalks, parking areas, or less-used streets.

What can open?

Restaurants with outdoor dining areas, where tables are at least six feet apart can reopen for sit down meals. Social distancing for members of different households must be maintained. Groups cannot be larger than six per table. Everyone sharing a table must be of the same household or living unit.

Outdoor dining space must have free airflow and the county recommends against walled canopies. Food trucks can open, as long as lines are following distancing.

“Food trucks are allowed to do outdoor dining, if they are following the local city requirements,” Balliet said.

Masks are required for all restaurant personnel and patrons should wear face coverings when not consuming their meal.

What can’t open?

Establishments that do not serve meals cannot reopen, even for outdoor service. That incudes brewpubs, breweries, bars, distilleries, wine tasting rooms, and more.

Restaurants that do not have outdoor space cannot reopen under this order, but can continue takeout and delivery.

Keeping workers healthy and safe

Restaurants must continue complying with a wide range of health and safety protocols. Workers must be masked and should receive a health screening before a shift. That may involve temperature checks or a verbal affirmation.

Establishments that reopen must display their social distancing protocols. Patrons should be able to see a green placard that affirms the restaurant is COVID-19 prepared.

The county continues to encourage essential workers, including those working at restaurants, get a tested at least monthly for COVID-19.

“The pandemic is not over, but things are getting better,” county spokesperson Betty Duong said.