Virginia Restaurants and Phase 1: What to Expect

Image: Tim Mossholder

Image: Tim Mossholder

Image: Daniel von Appen

Image: Daniel von Appen

Image: Julian Wan

Image: Julian Wan

Hey, foodies! As you may have heard, Governor Northam announced plans to begin slowly reopening businesses starting May 15th. Virginia’s Phase 1 plan includes restaurants except for those in Northern Virginia and Richmond. The Coronavirus is serious business, so there will, understandably, be a lot of changes to your favorite spots to dine. Eating out might feel a little different so we wanted to share a guide for what you can expect.

Keepin’ it Clean

In the back-of-house, restaurants must adhere to “enhanced cleaning and disinfection practices” to help keep away germs and bacteria. Additionally, sick employees AND patrons are prohibited from being in the establishment. It’s always a good idea for everyone to regularly wash your hands, and restaurant workers will be following strict guidelines.

It takes a lot of time to keep extra clean, and in order to maintain social distancing guidelines there won’t be as many employees working, so please be respectful of the longer wait times you may experience when dining.

Al fresco, Safely

Supporting your local restaurants by getting takeout and/or delivery is still recommended, but Phase 1 will see businesses starting to offer dine-in options in outdoor spaces ONLY, and must also follow social distancing measures. There are some additional rules they must follow:

  • Tons of signage saying that anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 or anyone with known exposure in the prior 14 days will not be allowed in or around the establishment. So follow the rules, guys!

  • Occupancy will be limited to 50% of normal occupancy while maintaining a minimum of six feet of physical distancing between all individuals as much as possible. Restaurants may be busy during the first rush of Phase 1 so be prepared to wait in your car until they can take you in. 

  • Dining parties must be separated by a minimum of six feet. This also includes spaces outside of the restaurant’s control, like if the outdoor dining area is next to a public walkway.

  • No parties of more than 10 patrons will be allowed. Even if they’re spread out among multiple tables. 

  • Bar seats and other “standing-only” areas of restaurants will be closed except for through-traffic. 

  • Live music is back! But again, the musicians must remain at least six feet from patrons and staff. 

  • Restaurant employees, both in front and back-of-house, will be required to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth.

  • All restaurants will be using single-use disposable menus, which will be tossed after each customer. We know this is a bummer for sustainability, but public health comes first. 

  • Restaurants cannot use refillable containers or us any implements brought in by the customer. Again, we want to be sustainable, but please do not ask restaurant folks to risk their health. 

  • You won’t see condiments on the table. If you need some sriracha for those eggs, you have to request it from your server. This also goes for self-service beverage areas. If a restaurant has a no-contamination method, then you can use that, but otherwise, you’ll need to ask a restaurant employee for a refill. 

  • Last but not least, only 10 patrons may wait for takeout in the lobby area at one time.

Keep Loving Local

Hopefully, this gives you a better sense of what to expect once Phase 1 begins in Virginia. If you do choose to go out, please support your local restaurants. These times have been tough for everyone, but small businesses have had it the hardest. 

Also, please be patient with the restaurant staff. This is new territory for everyone, and some growing pains should be expected. And most importantly of all, please give your server a HUGE TIP!

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