Guidance for Restaurants & Bars Reopening

The Government of the US Virgin Islands (the Government) takes seriously its mission to protect the lives and health of residents, visitors, and business owners and employees in the COVID-19 Pandemic Emergency. Because there is a higher risk of transmission of the COVID virus in the enclosed space of a restaurant, bar, and nightclub where patrons will have to remove their facial coverings to eat and drink, heightened precautions are necessary. To that end, the Government has developed guidance that may appear drastic in certain instances, but has been developed and deployed to avoid transmission of a virus that has no cure and to achieve the goal of protecting everyone’s health and life. THIS IS A SERIOUS PUBLIC HEALTH MATTER.

Guidance for Restaurants

The Virgin Islands Department of Health (VI DOH) recommends strict adherence to guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as the Universal Guidelines for All Businesses. Additionally, the Department of Health recommends restaurants put into place an assortment of policies, including measures to address employee and consumer protection, and business process adaptations.

Please Note: Guidance Protocol includes regulations that can and will be enforced for all restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. Suggested best business practices are also included, and we urge you to follow them for everyone's health and safety. Regulatory guidelines can and will be enforced by enforcement officers. We urge reference and use of the “Important Links” listed at the bottom of the Guidance.

General Business Guidance

Employee Health Measures and Screening:

  • Employers and Employees must follow sanitization frequency guidance contained in this document at all times.
  • Businesses shall post Guidance for Restaurants, Bars, and Nightclubs (as updated) in prominent place in business establishment.
  • Workers who seek medical attention or exhibit signs of illness should not report to work. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Food Code and Department of Public Health requires workers who are sick to remain at home.
  • Screen all employees reporting to work for Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) symptoms using the questionnaire attached as Attachment A; should be printed out and completed weekly by each employee and retained by Management.
  • Temperature screening of employees:
    • Best practice: Employers check temperatures onsite with a no-touch thermometer each day upon employee arrival at work.
    • Alternative: Temperature can be taken by employees before arriving at the workplace and verified by Management at the site.
    • Normal temperature should not exceed 100.3 degrees Fahrenheit
    • Employees with a temperature below 100.4°F and who answer “no” to all questions, can begin their shift.
    • Employees with a temperature higher than 100.3°F or who answered “yes” to any question should be sent home by their manager and advised not to return to work until cleared by a medical professional.
    • Employees who refuse to have their temperature checked or to answer any of the questions should be sent home.

N.B. * Effective June 8, 2020, as a safety precaution when screening workers and customers, an infrared thermometer should be used.

  • Restaurants shall follow established policies of the VI DOH regarding when workers who have become ill may be permitted to return to work. A worker with known or suspected COVID-19 must follow CDC guidelines to self-isolate for at least ten (10) days after symptom onset and end isolation only after symptoms have improved. A worker is only deemed or considered to have symptoms improved under circumstances where the worker has been fever-free and/or symptom-free for at least three (3) consecutive days without medication before returning to work.
    • All employees should stay home if feeling ill and report any symptoms of illness to their supervisor. Employees should self-quarantine if any member of their household has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • Employees who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 according to the CDC (e.g., due to age or underlying medical conditions) are encouraged to stay home.
    • Employer should plan for potential COVID-19 cases and must work with local health department officials when needed (e.g. monitoring of COVID-19 cases, deep cleaning facilities).
    • Covered employers and employees should be aware of the provisions of the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which allows for paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons, such as for self-quarantining or seeking a medical diagnosis for COVID-19 symptoms.
    • HIPPA and COVID-19
  • Employers must update their Employee Illness Policy to include the symptoms of COVID-19 or create a COVID-19 specific policy. All staff should sign the policy, and the policy should be posted for confirmation.

Maintaining Healthy Operations

Restaurants and bars may consider implementing several strategies to maintain healthy operations.

  • Protections for Employees at Higher Risk for Severe Illness from COVID-19
  • Regulatory Awareness
    • Be aware of local or state policies and recommendations related to group gatherings to determine if events can be held.
  • Staggered or Rotated Shifts and Sittings
    • Rotate or stagger shifts to limit the number of employees in the restaurant or bar at the same time.
    • Stagger and limit dining times to minimize the number of customers in the establishment.
    • When possible, use flexible worksites (e.g., telework) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts) to help establish policies and practices for social distancing (maintaining distance of approximately 6 feet) between employees and others, especially if social distancing is recommended by state and local health authorities.
  • Gatherings
    • Avoid group events, gatherings, or meetings where social distancing of at least 6 feet between people cannot be maintained.
  • Travel and Transit
    • For employees who commute to work using public transportation or ride sharing, encourage them to use transportation options that minimize close contact with others (e.g., walking or biking, driving or riding by car – alone or with household members only) or consider offering the following support:
  • Designated COVID-19 Point of Contact
    • Designate a staff person for each shift to be responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns. All staff members should know who this person is and how to contact them..
  • Communication Systems
    • Put systems in place for:
    • Consistent with applicable law and privacy policies, having staff self-report to the establishment’s point of contact if they have symptoms of COVID-19, a positive test for COVID-19, or were exposed to someone with COVID-19 within the last 14 days in accordance with health information sharing regulations for COVID-19 external icon (e.g. see “Notify Health Officials and Close Contacts” in the Preparing for When Someone Gets Sick section below), and other applicable privacy and confidentiality laws and regulations.
    • Notifying staff, customers, and the public of business closures, and restrictions in place to limit COVID-19 exposure (e.g., limited hours of operation).
  • Leave (Time Off) Policies
    • Implement flexible sick leave policies and practices that enable employees to stay home when they are sick, have been exposed, or caring for someone who is sick.
      • Examine and revise policies for leave, telework, and employee compensation.
      • Leave policies should be flexible and not punish people for taking time off and should allow sick employees to stay home and away from co-workers. Leave policies should also account for employees who need to stay home with their children if there are school or childcare closures, or to care for sick family members.
    • Develop policies for return-to-work after COVID-19 illness.  CDC’s criteria to discontinue home isolation can inform these policies.
  • Back-Up Staffing Plan
    • Monitor absenteeism of employees, cross-train staff, and create a roster of trained back-up staff.
  • Staff Training
    • Train all employees in safety actions.
    • Conduct training virtually, or ensure that social distancing is maintained during training.
  • Recognize Signs and Symptoms
    • Conduct daily health checks (e.g., temperature screening and/or or symptom checking) of staff safely and respectfully, and in accordance with any applicable privacy laws and regulations.
  • Support Coping and Resilience  
    • Promote employees eating healthy, exercising, getting sleep, and finding time to unwind.
    • Encourage employees to talk with people they trust about their concerns and how they are feeling.
    • Consider posting signs for the national distress hotline: 1-800-985-5990, or text TalkWithUs to 66746

Preparing for Sick Employees

Restaurants and bars may consider implementing several strategies to prepare for when someone gets sick.

  • Advise Sick Employees of Home Isolation Criteria
  • Isolate and Transport Those Who are Sick
    • Make sure that employees know they should not come to work if they are sick, and they should notify their manager or other designated COVID-19 point of contact if they become sick with COVID-19 symptoms, test positive for COVID-19, or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 symptoms or a confirmed or suspected case.
    • Immediately separate employees or customers with COVID-19 symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, shortness of breath). Individuals who are sick should go home or to a healthcare facility, depending on how sever their symptoms are, and follow CDC guidance for caring for oneself and others who are sick.
  • Clean and Disinfect
  • Notify Health Officials and Close Contacts

Social Distance Measures

  • Practice recommended social distancing to the greatest extent possible – “Farther is safer”. Businesses should:
    • Establish a limit for the maximum number of workers permitted in worker breakrooms to reduce contact.
    • Implement staggered shifts for all workers, if possible.
    • Where possible, stagger workstations to avoid workers standing adjacent to one another. Where six feet of separation is not possible, consider spacing options that include other mitigation efforts such as increased frequency of cleaning and sanitizing surfaces.
    • Hold all business and employee meetings and conferences virtually, whenever possible.
    • Remind third-party delivery drivers and any suppliers of your internal distancing requirements.
    • Third-party delivery drivers should also wear face coverings while in the restaurant and when interacting with any customers at the delivery location.
  • Event centers and banquet halls must comply with mass gathering mandates of less than 100 people or 50 percent of the occupancy capacity (whichever is less).

Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in accordance with CDC guidelines

  • All restaurant, bar, and nightclub workers are to have or be provided with their own dedicated face coverings and gloves (i.e. only used by one person) worn by all employees, at all times. (employers are encouraged to provide frequent breaks for workers).
    • Face coverings must cover the nose and mouth while being worn.
    • Schedule your staff accordingly for extra breaks to discourage the misuse of masks.
    • Allow employees to take a break from wearing the mask alone, outside of the building.
    • Masks must be worn any time 2 or more people who aren’t from the same household are together. See Regulatory Guidance for more information. 
  • Additional protection such as a face shield is allowable, but not required. Such coverings or face shields shall be cleaned or replaced daily. Face shields are clear plastic barriers that do not make contact with the face but are worn as a way to protect the full face from spray. Face shields do not protect others from contaminated airborne particles expelled from the person wearing the face shield.

Hand Sanitization Measures

  • Hand sanitizer means any hand antiseptic with an alcohol content of 60% or more, hand rub, soap, or agent applied to the hands for the purpose of removing common pathogens.
    • Hand antiseptics and hand sanitizers must meet the criteria for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s food additive definition of Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS).
    • Otherwise, hands should be thoroughly cleaned with soap and rinsed in clean water prior to handling food.
    • Train all workers on the importance of:
  • Increase handwashing frequency
  • The use of hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol. Hand sanitizer means any hand antiseptic, hand rub, soap, wipe, or agent applied to the hands for the purpose of removing common pathogens meeting the criteria for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s food additive definition of Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS).
  • Not touching hands to face
  • Good respiratory etiquette when coughing or sneezing
  • Bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods is prohibited.

Sanitization Measures Relating to Customer Service

  • EPA Registered Disinfectants
  • Thoroughly detail, clean, and sanitize the entire facility prior to resuming dine-in services and continue to do so regularly, focusing such cleaning and sanitization on high contact areas that would be touched by workers and/or patrons.
    • Between diners, clean and sanitize table condiments, digital ordering devices, check presenters, pens, chairs, and tabletops; and discard single-use items.
    • *Effective June 8, the use of disposable dishes, utensils, napkins, and drink containers, is required if any are used (gloves should be used by staff while setting up and breaking down table settings). Patrons may bring, and leave with, their own drink containers or utensils.
  • Remove items from self-service drink stations, condiment, utensil and tableware stations, and have workers provide such items to patrons directly.
    • Discontinue use of self-serve salad bars and buffets.
  • Clean and sanitize restrooms regularly, check restrooms based on the frequency of use, and ensure adequate supply of soap and paper towels at all times.
    • Provide hand sanitizer for use by patrons and employees, including contactless hand sanitizing stations when available. Place hand sanitizer stations in restaurant lobby and bathrooms, as well as at cashier stations.
    • Mark pathways to and from restrooms that mitigate proximity for patrons and staff.
    • Implement workplace cleaning and disinfecting practices, according to CDC guidelines, with regular sanitization of high touch surfaces at least every two hours.
    • Sanitize all front-of-house contact surfaces, including door handles, screens, phones, pens, keyboards, and other areas of hand contact every two hours, at a minimum.
    • Use menus that are disposable or enclosed in plastic and sanitized between each use. Non-touch menus are also acceptable for use but are not required.

Additional Sanitization Measures

  • Discourage workers from using other workers' phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment (such as pens, pencils, check holders, etc.). Clean registers or Point of Sale machines between use by different workers.
    • Implement procedures to increase the frequency of cleaning and sanitizing surfaces in the back- of-house. Avoid all food contact surfaces when using disinfectants.
    • Verify that ware-washing machines are operating at the required wash and rinse temperatures and with the appropriate detergents and sanitizers.

Customer Service Procedures and Policies/Business Adaptation

Personal Protective Equipment

  • Customers and employees must wear masks at all times, except while eating or drinking. Any time they aren’t seated at their table, they must wear a mask.

Signs and Messages

Social Distance Measures

  • Limit the number of customers in the restaurant to 50 percent of seating capacity as defined by Business License or the Fire Marshall, or 100 customers, whichever is less.
    • Tables and bar stools should be spaced at least 6 feet apart.
    • Businesses may, but are not required to, utilize physical barriers on booth seating when available to ensure Social Distancing.
    • Limit seating at tables to no more than six guests per table.
    • Mark any indoor or outdoor waiting areas so that social distancing standards are met (options can include a text system to alert guests of available seating, an intercom system, or only one member of a party being allowed to wait in the waiting area).
    • Mitigate exposure in the workplace by scheduling of reservations and deliveries to meet social distancing policies, whenever possible.
    • Where practicable, takeout, and curb side pick-up services should be prioritized over dine-in services.
    • All restaurant or dining room playgrounds shall be closed.
    • If possible, have patrons use an exit from the facility separate from the entrance.
  • See Regulatory Guidance for more information

Customer Health Measures

  • Post clearly visible signage at entrances stating that: No one with a fever is permitted in the facility.
    • Screen customers for illness upon their entry into the restaurant:
      • Best practice: Temperature checks for every customer in addition to screening questions. Customers with temperatures above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit should not be permitted on-premise.

Minimum: COVID-19 screening questions for customers:

  • Have you been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19?
  • Are you experiencing a cough, shortness of breath or sore throat?
  • Have you had a fever in the last 48 hours?

COVID-19 Regulatory Guidelines from Supplemental Executive Orders

Restaurants:

"All restaurants in the Territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands shall be allowed to return to in-house dining and service pursuant to the COVID-19 GUIDANCE FOR RESTAURANTS, BARS AND NIGHTCLUBS, issued in the Eighth Supplemental

Executive Order on May 30, 2020," 16th Supplemental Executive Order, Revised in 19th SEO

  1. In all restaurants in the Territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands, NO patrons shall be allowed to congregate standing around the restaurant bar counter area; there shall be no serving of alcohol at bar counters. Seated patrons may order food, or alcohol, or both, so long as they are seated at designated seating areas.
  2. There shall be no seating of more than 6 persons per table and patrons may only be seated at allocated seating within the social distancing guidelines of six (6) feet away from other tables.
  3. Patrons awaiting a take-out order must wait outside of the restaurant. Restaurants may sell alcoholic beverages to patrons with take-out orders.
  4. All restaurants and any other establishments with a Tavern Keeper A or Tavern Keeper B license in the Territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands shall cease the sale or distribution of alcohol from 11:00 p.m. until 8:00 a.m. daily.
  5. Restaurants shall be closed to patrons from 12:00 a.m. until 6:00 a.m. daily.
  6. Restaurants shall limit the number of patrons in the establishment to 50 percent of the regular occupancy capacity set by Business License or the Fire Marshal prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic, or 100 customers, whichever is less.

Food Trucks: shall operate on a "drive-through," "take-out," or "delivery" basis only. If a food truck has a seating area that was previously permitted, the food truck shall then be allowed to operate under the "Restaurants" regulations above.

Bars and Nightclubs

"In all bars and nightclubs in the Territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands, NO patrons shall be allowed to congregate standing around the bar counter area; there shall be no sitting and no serving of alcohol at bar counters. Patrons seated at tables may order food, or alcohol, or both, so long as they are seated at designated seating areas." Supplemental Executive Order 19

  1. Cabarets shall remain CLOSED
  2. All bars and nightclubs in the Territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands shall be allowed to open for SEATED service only.
  3. Patrons must stay at tables to order and receive food and/or drink service, and patrons must not approach the bar counter area for any reason, ever.
  4. Maximum of 6 people per table. Maintain 6 feet distance between tables.
  5. Tavern Keeper A and B,  NO alcohol sales between11p.m. and 8 a.m. daily – Last Call at 11 p.m. – NO EXCEPTIONS
  6. Bars and Nightclubs shall be CLOSED from 12:00 a.m. - 6:00 a.m. daily.
  7. Patrons must wear masks covering their nose and mouth except when seated at their own designated tables. (See additional mask information below.)
  8. The use of pool tables is permitted under these conditions:
    1. Patrons must wear masks covering their nose and mouth.
    2. Hand sanitizers must be accessible to all players.
    3. The pool sticks and surrounding areas must be disinfected after each game.
  9. Live Music and D.J.'s stop before midnight, closing time.
  10. Bars and nightclubs can operate at 50% capacity based on pre-Covid-19 Pandemic Business Licenses / Fire Marshall, but not more than 100 customers – whichever number is less.

MASKS

Any person who is not in his/her private home or vehicle, for any purpose, including but not limited to visitors, patrons, employees, managers, directors, or owners of commercial entities or businesses, public or private, is required to wear a face mask or facial covering when 2 or more individuals, who do not share the relationship of family members, caretakers, household members, or romantic partners, meet or interact in any manner and are not able to utilize social distancing techniques.18th Supplemental Executive Order

Social Distancing: In coordination with the Commissioner of the DOH and in alignment with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all persons are urged to maintain social distancing of at least six feet away from other people that are not of their same household, whenever possible. All individuals are urged to continue to wash their hands, utilize hand sanitizer, and practice proper respiratory etiquette (including coughing into elbow) as often as possible.)

The following guidelines shall apply for MASKS / FACIAL COVERINGS: 16th Supplemental Executive Order

  1. Masks or facial coverings must cover both the nose and mouth of the individual.
  2. Masks with exhalation valves or vents should NOT be worn to help prevent the person wearing the mask from spreading COVID-19 to others.
  3. Ski masks and stocking caps are prohibited as use for facial coverings
  4. Masks or facial coverings should NOT be worn by children under the age of 2 or anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
  5. Those individuals with chronic respiratory conditions should seek advice from their primary care physician for alternative types of masks, avoid crowds, and socially distance as an exemption would put those with respiratory conditions at risk.
  6. Masks or facial coverings do not have to be worn during active exercise, indoor or outdoor.
  7. All passengers and drivers of mass or public transportation, including but not limited to Vitran buses, taxicabs, and automobiles for hire, shall be required to wear a mask or facial covering.
  8. Violation of this Subsection shall be punishable by a fine of fifty dollars ($50) for a first offense and one hundred dollars ($100) for each additional offense pursuant to Section 4 of the Twelfth Supplemental Executive Order issued on August 10, 2020.Social Distancing: In coordination with the Commissioner of the DOH and in alignment with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all persons are urged to maintain social distancing of at least six feet away from other people that are not of their same household, whenever possible. All individuals are urged to continue to wash their hands, utilize hand sanitizer, and practice proper respiratory etiquette (including coughing into elbow) as often as possible

Compliance

To ensure compliance DOH Division of Environmental Health will use the WARN , CITE, CLOSE & CITE, and SUSPENSION approach (in that order) for repeated COVID-19 health non-compliance.

1st Warning: Written Citation

2nd Violation: Written Citation with administrative process for assessment of an administrative fine through the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs.

3rd Violation: Written Citation and a Closure for a period not to exceed 7 calendar days unless public health emergency circumstances warranting Closure continue as a matter of law.

4th Violation: If the establishment continues to be non-compliant after exhausting I, 2, and 3, then suspension of the Business License and Health Permit may occur.

Important Links

Very All-Inclusive Checklist for Running your Food Service Establishment as safe as possible during the COVID-19 Pandemic. FDA Employee Health and Food Safety Checklist for Human and Animal Food Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic FDA Checklist

Bookmark this page, as it’s updated frequently, make sure to follow the links and print out the PDF Checklists and Templates at the Bottom of the Page. CDC Guidance for Restuarants and Bars During COVID-19

Develop a HAACP Plan Today, if you haven't already.  HAACP Hazard Analysis And Critical Control Point - FDA Guidebook

FDA 2017 Food Code – (Searchable PDF on this page.) https://www.fda.gov/food/fda-food-code/food-code-2017

FDA Employee Health and Hygiene Handbook (pre-COVID-19 – but valuable information) https://www.fda.gov/media/77065/download

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