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Answering the top questions for Iowa restaurants looking to reopen

The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals created a list of frequently-asked questions for restaurants to use as guidance for reopening their doors.

Iowa's restaurants are looking to reopen their doors this weekend, and there are a lot of questions about what the regulations and requirements will be.

Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Monday the loosening of certain COVID-19 restrictions in 77 counties. Establishments in these counties will be able to reopen their doors beginning Friday.

There is a catch: restaurants will only be able to open at 50% of their normal capacity, and other guidelines must be followed.

A list of frequently-asked questions issued by the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals looks to make the transition easier for restaurants this weekend. 

Below are the top 10 questions, and the full list can be found here.

Is a restaurant required to physically remove tables or booths?

If a facility is unable to remove tables or booths to ensure a minimum of six feet between guests, tables or booths which are not available for seating guests must be identified by signage.

Is a restaurant required to take an employee's temperature before allowing the employee to enter the facility?  

This is strongly encouraged. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms must be excluded from work. This is a reasonable public health measure that a restaurant can implement.

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What social distancing strategies should I use?

Do not allow guests to congregate in waiting or bar areas. Design a process to ensure guest separation while waiting to be seated. This can include adding floor markings, enforcing social distancing outside the restaurant, having customers wait in cars, etc. Consider also using a facility exit separate from the main entrance, in addition to the main entrance. Predetermine traffic paths to/from restrooms to limit proximity for guests and staff. 

Can a restaurant located in a mall or food court allow guests to utilize common seating in malls, food courts, or in other venues where there is normally common seating?

Common seating areas outside restaurant dining rooms remain closed. Restaurants that utilize only common seating (e.g., food courts) may continue to offer carry-out and delivery options only. 

Can restaurants refill customer beverages?

Refilling beverages at the table or from common containers (e.g., pitchers, carafes, decanters, bottles, kettles, etc.) is strongly discouraged. We recommend using clean glassware to provide customer refills. 

Can a bowling alley or other entertainment venue with a restaurant reopen for on-premise dining?

Bingo halls, bowling alleys, pool halls, arcades, and amusement parks remain closed to the public. The restaurant area of the facility may reopen for on-premises dining in accordance with the proclamation. However, non-dining activities must remain closed to the public, including but not limited to bowling, pool, darts, arcade games, amusement devices, and other games of skill or chance. 

Can a restaurant allow customers to use pool tables, dartboards, arcade games, amusement devices, and other games of skill or chance?

No, the use of these items by the public continues to be prohibited in the governor’s proclamation.

Can a restaurant provide live music and dancing?

We strongly advise against this practice. The governor’s proclamation requires restaurants to implement reasonable measures to ensure social distancing of employees and customers, increased hygiene practices, and other public health measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

Can a bar or brewery tap room partner with a mobile food unit or restaurant, or utilize restaurant delivery options to allow on-premises dining along with alcohol sales?

No, bars must remain closed to the public, except for carry-out and delivery only. For the purposes of this order, a bar is an establishment where a customer may purchase alcoholic beverages and in which the serving of food in incidental to the consumption of those beverages and is limited to the service of ice, snack foods, and the reheating of commercially prepared foods such as frozen pizza, pre-packaged sandwiches, or other prepackaged, ready-to-serve products. 

Can a restaurant within a golf course clubhouse reopen to on-premises dining?

Restaurants within golf course clubhouses and other social and fraternal clubs may reopen to the public for on-premise dining, provided clubhouse activities and other club activities remain closed and the restaurant operates in accordance with the governor's proclamation. 

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