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Volume X, Number 193

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New Massachusetts Safety Standards and Guidelines: Restaurants and Lodgings

On Friday, May 29, 2020, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development issued safety standards and guidelines for the restaurant and lodging industries as part of ‘Phase 2’ of Massachusetts’ Workplace Reopening Plan.  While the Governor has not yet determined the date of the start of Phase 2, this guidance has been published for restaurants and operators of lodgings to provide advance notice of the requirements for when they are eventually permitted to reopen.

The safety standards fall into four general categories: social distancing, hygiene protocols, staffing & operations, and cleaning & disinfecting.  This alert provides summaries of the standards.  To read the published standards in their entirety, please see the following links:

For a preview of mandatory safety standards, recommended best practices, and a checklist for restaurants, click here.  The restaurant protocol summary is available here.  The restaurant checklist is available here.

For a preview of mandatory safety standards, recommended best practices, and a checklist for operators of lodgings, click here.  The operators of lodgings protocol summary is available here.  The operators of lodgings checklist is available here.

Restaurants

Restaurants continue to be permitted to provide carry-out or delivery service.  At the outset of Phase 2, restaurants will only be permitted to offer outdoor dining.  Indoor dining will be authorized by a subsequent Phase 2 order if public health data permits, but restaurants are encouraged to operate as much as possible through outdoor dining and to limit activities within confined spaces.

Beer gardens, breweries, wineries, and distilleries will be part of Phase 2 if they provide seated food service and part of Phase 4 if they do not.  Bars are considered to be part of Phase 4.

Social Distancing: Tables must be spaced at least six feet away from other tables and any high-traffic areas, but tables utilizing non-porous protective barriers (walls or Plexiglas dividers) may be placed closer together.  Tables will be limited to a maximum party size of six.  Restaurants may not seat customers at the bar, but, if building and fire codes permit, bar areas may be reconfigured to accommodate spaced-out table seating.  All dining customers must be seated; eat-in service to standing customers (whether indoor or outdoor) is prohibited.  All amenities and areas not used for food service (dance floors, play areas) must remain closed.  Customers are allowed to remove face coverings when seated at tables.

Hygiene Protocols: Alcohol-based sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol should be made available at entrances, exits, and in the dining area.  Self-serve, unattended buffets, topping bars, drink stations, and other communal serving areas must be closed.  Condiments, salt and pepper should not be pre-set on tables, and must be provided in single-serving portions or in serving containers sanitized between each use.  Menus must be either paper, single-use menus disposed after each use, displayed menus, or electronic menus viewed on customers’ own mobile devices.

Staffing & Operations: Reservations or call-ahead seating are encouraged, and diners waiting for tables must not congregate in common areas or form lines.  Restaurants may not provide customers with buzzers or other devices to notify when tables or orders are ready, and should use non-touch methods such as audio announcements, text messages, or fixed display boards.  Operators should establish adjusted workplace hours and shifts for workers to minimize contact across workers and reduce congestion at entry points.

Cleaning & Disinfecting: Restaurants are encouraged to keep cleaning logs including date, time, and scope of all cleaning.  In the event of a presumptive or actual positive COVID-19 case of a worker, customer, or vendor, the restaurant must be immediately shut down for 24 hours and cleaned and disinfected in accordance with current CDC guidance.

Lodgings

Operators of lodgings have operated under the COVID-19 emergency under restrictions issued by the Department of Public Health (DPH) and may not expand their operations until specifically authorized to do so by the withdrawal of such DPH lodging guidance.  All indoor or outdoor event facilities are to remain closed, and operators are not permitted to host weddings, business events or other organized gatherings.  On-site amenities, such as restaurants, pools, spas and golf courses, will need to follow their own sector-specific safety standards that have been or will be published by the Commonwealth (for instance, the restaurant-specific guidelines summarized above will apply to all restaurants, including those located inside hotels).

Short-term home and apartment rentals are also required to apply to all of the applicable safety standards mandated for hotels, including cleaning requirements and minimum periods between rentals.

All operators must inform guests at the time of reservation and again at check-in of Massachusetts’ policy urging self-quarantine for 14 days when arriving from out of state.

Social Distancing: Operators are encouraged to close or reconfigure common spaces and high-density areas to allow for a minimum of 6 feet of physical distancing.  Directional hallways for foot traffic are encouraged.  Face coverings will be required for all workers and guests when inside hallways and common areas.  Guests should enter through doors that are either propped open or automated or manually operated by a worker.  Workers should not open the doors of cars or taxis, and valet operations should be avoided unless necessary due to physical or geographic constraints or to accommodate guests with disabling conditions.  Contactless payment methods are encouraged.

Hygiene Protocols: All workers must have adequate cleaning supplies, and hand sanitizer in public areas should be provided throughout the facility.  Operators must discontinue the use of shared food and beverage equipment in lobbies (including shared coffee brewers) and must close manually operated ice machines.

Staffing & Operations: Operators should establish adjusted workplace hours and shifts for workers to minimize contact across workers and reduce congestion at entry points.  Breaks should be permitted to be taken outside to enable social distancing, if possible.  Daily pre-shift meetings should be conducted virtually.  Operators should minimize shared touch surfaces, such as kiosks, tablets, pens, credit cards, receipts and keys.  Amenity deliveries, such as guest room service or laundry and dry-cleaning should be made using contactless pick-up and delivery protocols, and non-essential paper amenities (paper, pens, guest directory, magazines or brochures) should be removed or limited.  Buffets or self-service areas with multi-use items must be closed.  Operators should maintain a log of workers and guests to support contact tracing, including name, date, time and contact information.  If an employer is notified of a positive COVID-19 case in the workplace, the employer must notify the local board of health where the workplace is located and work with them on contact tracing and recommendations to isolate and self-quarantine.

Cleaning & Disinfecting:  Enhanced room sanitization must be practiced each time a guest checks out and before the next guest is admitted, laundering all linens, bedspreads and covers.  Dirty linens must be removed from guest rooms in single-use sealed bags and pillow protectors must be changed between guests.  Operators are encouraged to leave guest rooms vacant for 24 hours as part of cleaning protocols to allow for all cleaners to dry and for air exchange.  In the event that a guest presents a presumptive or positive case of COVID-19, the room used by that guest must undergo enhanced sanitization per CDC guidelines before being returned to service.

Summary

The standards summarized above are expected to be put into place as Governor Baker moves Massachusetts from Phase 1 into Phase 2 of the Workplace Reopening Plan, and will be subject to changes and further orders from the Governor’s office. 

© 2020 SHERIN AND LODGEN LLPNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 156

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About this Author

Joseph Wang Hospitality Attorney Sherin Lodgen Law Firm
Partner

Joseph Y. Wang is a partner in the firm’s Real Estate Department and member of its Hospitality Practice Group.

He has experience in a variety of real estate matters, including land use, zoning and development, and representing landlords and tenants in office, retail, and research and development leasing matters large and small.

Joseph has been engaged in several large development projects in Boston, where he has negotiated with local and state agencies and private parties to bring brand name hotels and residential stock to the city.

He has participated in the...

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