Restaurants may need months to meet California reopening guidelines

As promised late last month, Gov. Newsom made good Tuesday on his promise to reveal restaurant reopening plans, a key to restoring lost of jobs and a semblance of normalcy.

But at least one official for the state's restaurant industry said those guidelines will require weeks or even months of work for restaurateurs. 

Newsom insisted that any reopening, anywhere will be determined by testing, tracing, data, statistics and science.

"Today, we are now making public, the guidelines for a number of other industries in this state, including the restaurant industry," said Newsom.

To reopen, facilities across 20 different industries, including restaurants, must implement a detailed risk assessment, a site-specific protection plan, employee training on stopping the coronavirus's spread, and procedures for workers to screen themselves for symptoms.

The head of the California Restaurant Association says his members have their work cut out for them. "That's weeks, if not months of work, But, certainly they will do it in whatever time they need," said Jot Condie, California Restaurant Association CEO.

To protect the public, businesses must implement control measures, employee and contractor screenings, disinfecting procedures and physical distancing guidelines. That's the big picture.

"Restaurants are, many of them, open for take-out, but this would allow patrons to start coming back in," said Newsom.

In addition to the general rules, there are specific restaurants rules to obey. They include temperature and symptom screening for all employees, vendors and contractors for every shift,  especially when restaurants are ready and permitted by their counties to provide dine-in service. Unlike pre-coronavirus days, with a few exceptions, staff members must wear masks. Servers and anyone else handling food, dishes or garbage must also wear gloves.

Common food sources such as buffets are prohibited, as are containers of reusable condiments such as ketchup.

Where physical distancing is difficult, partitions and barriers should be installed.

Servers and customers must be at least six feet apart. The same goes for groups of diners, who must be seated six feet apart. 

The rules suggest, but do not mandate that guests and visitors should be screened for symptoms upon arrival, asked to use hand sanitizer, and to bring and wear a face covering when not eating or drinking. "The guidelines we put out are, provide more flexibility than I believe, some other states," Newsom said. 

But, the California Restaurant Association knows that many, will run out of time. "Two or three weeks and I thing we're going to see a large chunk of our industry, throw in the towel," said Condie.