**Effective August 21, 2020, NH Governor Sununu has allowed for indoor dining in all NH Counties to operate at 100% seating capacity, while maintaining required Physical/Social Distancing between tables/guests. (Follow Instructions below.)
Due to the COVID-19 Emergency, and in compliance with New Hampshire Emergency Order # 40, this information is intended to guide restaurants through the gradual reopening process. Requirements may be altered in light of emerging science and regional data on levels of COVID-19 community transmission, hospitalizations, death rates and the capacities of the local healthcare systems.
Please be aware there may be an increased risk of exposure to Covid-19 associated with public dining for your staff and your customers. Strict adherence to the Guidelines should help reduce the risk but may not eliminate it.
All Portsmouth restaurants that are open for indoor dining, must submit adjusted seating floor plans reflecting Social Distancing requirements for approval electronically in Viewpoint. Restaurants do not need to reapply for a new food permit. All establishments must also submit a completed Re-opening Checklist (click here for Viewpoint.)
If you have previously applied for Reduced Indoor Seating and received approval, you do not need to reapply. If your seating capacity has changed, please submit a new COVID-19 Reduced Indoor Seating application via Viewpoint.
The FDA Re-opening Checklist can be found here.
Information and diagrams for adjusting seating plans for physical distancing can be found here.
Restaurants already holding a liquor license need only advise the Liquor Commission, via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, that they will be applying that license to their outdoor extensions. For FAQs and additional information, click here.
INDOOR DINING: Restaurants currently permitted for established indoor seating areas may re-open beginning June 15, 2020 with reduced occupancy once adjusted seating floor plans are approved and they have shown compliance with the Re-opening Checklist. Adjusted Seating Plans and completed Re-opening Checklists must be submitted electronically via the City's Viewpoint online permitting system (click here for Covid-19 Reduced Indoor Seating Approval application.)
Refer to the Governor's Safer at Home 2.0 Covid-19 Guidance for the Food Services Industry for additional information.
OUTDOOR DINING: Restaurants currently permitted for established outdoor seating areas may open temporarily once they have shown compliance with the public health guidelines below and adjusted seating floor plans are approved. Adjusted Seating Plans must be submitted electronically via the City’s Viewpoint online permitting system. Restaurants do not need to reapply for a new permit. Instead, restaurants (click here to apply for Covid-19 Outdoor Dining Approval ) and upload an adjusted plan for approval.
Any restaurants proposing to add a new outdoor dining area on their property or expand an existing one, need to file for a (click here Building Permit via Viewpoint.)
Restaurants proposing to use City sidewalks for service and seating should make this request via the Sidewalk Cafe permit. For 2020: if proposals also involve City streets and/or parking spaces, please use the Sidewalk Cafe permit application as well.
Not all locations may be able to accommodate outdoor seating. The Governor’s Stay At Home Order is in effect until June 15th. Food service is an essential service. However unlike offices, retail shops, and other businesses that can incorporate most of the recommended protective health measures, outdoor dining spaces present additional challenges. They are in conflict with three main methods currently available to protect patrons from becoming infected with Covid-19; maintain a minimum of six feet between persons, wear a mask at all times in public, and avoid hand-to-mouth actions.
Universal guidelines have been provided by the State of New Hampshire. These are the bare minimum standards to be met for every business. They can be found here.
- Follow the Universal Guidelines for All New Hampshire Employers and Employees listed above.
- Build social distancing into food service operations to maintain a safe distance of at least 6 feet between employees and customers. This is a minimum distance requirement. 19 inches per chair allowance must be added to the 6 foot distancing requirement between adjacent chairs/tables/stationary employees (bartenders/host station) or passersby.
- Direct customer contact employees shall wear cloth or mask face coverings over their nose and mouth when at work and around others in settings where social distancing may be difficult.
- Train all employees on the importance of frequent hand washing and the use of hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol content.
- Signage must be prominently posted throughout the venue to ask customers if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, including:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
- Children have similar symptoms to adults and generally have mild illness.
- This list is not all inclusive. Other less common symptoms have been reported, including gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
- Customers should be asked to bring and wear a cloth face covering when entering and exiting a facility to protect other patrons and employees during the seating and exiting process, or when getting up to use the restroom.
- Alcohol-based hand-sanitizer should be made readily available at the hostess station for both customers and employees.
Business Process Adaptations:
- Place hand sanitizer stations in restaurant lobby reception, bathrooms, and at cashier stations. Restrooms should be monitored and routinely cleaned soap dispensers regularly filled.
- Clean and disinfect all front-of-house surfaces including door handles frequently touched surfaces (for example, door handles, work stations, cash registers) at least daily and shared objects (for example, payment terminals, tables, countertops/bars, receipt trays, condiment holders) between use. Use products that meet EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2 and that are appropriate for the surface. Prior to wiping the surface, allow the disinfectant to sit for the necessary contact time recommended by the manufacturer.
- Disinfect, screens, phones, pens, keyboards and other areas of hand contact every two hours, at a minimum.
- To the extent possible, use menus that are disposable or sanitized between each use.
- A disposable ordering system is also advisable when possible to limit guest interaction with wait staff.
- Use of ‘self-serve’ utensils, plates or napkins, are not allowed. Use rolled silverware, prepared with clean and gloved hands, and eliminating table presets.
- Use single use containers only for table condiments.
- Disinfect chairs, especially where contact occurs, after each table use.
- No self-serve buffets or appetizers, condiments on a counter for use by multiple tables, or beverage station re-use.
- No catering or large-group functions allowed.
- Restroom occupancy shall be limited for group restrooms to incorporate social distancing, and avoid waiting lines outside of restrooms.
- Facilities must have adequate PPE and routine supplies (masks, gloves, hand soap, food service sanitizers, etc.) on hand to continue operation.
- Consider assigning vulnerable workers duties that minimize their contact with customers and other employees (e.g., managing inventory rather than working as a cashier, managing administrative needs through telework).
- Provide employees from higher transmission areas telework and other options as feasible to eliminate travel to workplaces in lower transmission areas and vice versa.
- Bar areas can open with strict adherence to guidelines. (See page 3, Consumer Protection #8 of Stay-at-Home 2.0)
- Promote healthy hygiene practices. Although Covid-19 is not a food borne illness, challenges of alternate means of food service, such as high volume take out, or outdoor dining only, require strict adherence to the 2009 FDA Food requirements.
- Post signs on how to stop the spread of COVID-19, properly wash hands, promote everyday protective measures, and properly wear a face covering.
- Intensify cleaning, disinfection and ensure ventilation systems, including air ducts and vents in the facility are clean, free of mold, and operating properly. Increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible by opening screened windows and fans.
- Train staff on proper cleaning procedures to ensure safe and correct application of disinfectants.
- No smoking, vaping or chewing tobacco products allowed.
- If possible, use no-touch trash cans and doors.
- Use touchless payment options as much as possible, when available. Ask customers and employees to exchange cash or card payments by placing on a receipt tray or on the counter rather than by hand. Wipe any pens, counters, or hard surfaces between use or customer.
- Use disposable food service items if feasible.
- Avoid using food and beverage implements brought in by customers.
- Take steps to ensure that all water systems are safe to use after a prolonged facility shutdown to minimize the risk of Legionnaires’ disease and other hazards (lead, etc.) associated with standing water and old plumbing lines.
Ensure social distancing:
- Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks to ensure that customers remain at least six feet apart in lines or ask customers to wait in their cars or away from the establishment while waiting to pick up food.
- Post signs to inform customers of food pickup protocols.
- Consider installing physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions at cash registers, or other food pickup areas.
- Rotate or stagger shifts to limit the number of employees in the workplace at the same time.
- Take out Customers should order ahead of time to the extent possible to limit the amount of time spent in the establishment.
- Avoid self-serve food or drink options, such as buffets, salad bars, and drink stations.
- Limit the number of employees in shared spaces, including kitchens, break rooms, and offices to maintain at least a six foot distance between people.
- Outdoor areas must be able to be cleaned and disinfected, as appropriate.
- The outdoor space must be clearly delineated and distanced from people walking by.
- Restaurants must seek approval from local authorities.
- Indoor dining operations may open with reduced occupancy beginning June 15, 2020 with prior approvals.
- Limit tables to no more than six (6) guests per table.
Additional COVID-19 training resources for re-opening can be found here.