Regulations and Guidance for Bars and Restaurants Operating During the COVID-19 Pandemic Emergency

The Government of the US Virgin Islands (the Government) takes seriously its mission to protect the lives and health of residents, visitors, business owners, and employees in the COVID-19 Pandemic Emergency.

COVID-19 spreads through the air. Airborne transmission and contaminated surfaces are the main ways people catch the virus. There is a higher risk of transmitting COVID-19 in a restaurant, bar, and nightclubs. These establishments are among the few public places where people are permitted to remove their facial coverings to eat or drink while seated at a designated location 4 feet away from other patrons.

VI DOH developed this guidance to avoid transmitting a virus with no cure. The goal of this guidance is to protect everyone's health and life. THIS IS A SERIOUS PUBLIC HEALTH MATTER

Public Health Order 2020-001& Executive Order Regulations

  • The following information is an overview of the most current regulations written into public health law based on Public Health Order 2020-001 and updated through Executive Orders. These regulations will remain in full effect, enforceable by law, until modified or suspended by the Government of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The “guidance” section contains food and employee safety and hygiene measures and links to guides and checklists from the FDA, CDC, and the National Restaurant Association.
  • All restaurants and all bars in the Territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands shall be allowed to open for in-house dining, take out, and delivery services according to the Public Health Order 2020-001 COVID-19 GUIDANCE FOR RESTAURANTS, BARS AND NIGHTCLUBS (PHO 2020-001, issued on May 30, 2020) as supplemented or amended by the terms and conditions listed in the VI Governor’s Executive Orders (E.O.), which are available in their entirety at www.vi.gov/executive-orders. Executive Orders #21-24 contain the most recent restaurant and bar regulations.

Regulatory Guidance Overview

Cabarets

All Cabarets shall remain closed until further notice per the Order of the Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Food Trucks

Food trucks can operate on a “drive-through,” take-out,” or “delivery” basis only.

  • If a food truck has a previously permitted seating area, it can operate under the same conditions as a restaurant.  

Restaurants & Bars:

Seating and Social Distancing Measures

Social Distancing:

  • In coordination with the Commissioner of the DOH and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance, all persons must maintain social distancing of at least six feet away from other people 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 the elbow) as often as possible.

Only SEATED service shall be allowed. Patrons and staff must follow social distancing rules:

  • NO patrons are allowed to stand around the bar counter area.
  • Only serve food and drinks to seated patrons; patrons must be seated at designated bar seats or sitting at a set table.
  • Keep seats spaced 4 feet apart at a bar counter.
    • Keep seats assigned for the duration of the patron’s visit to ensure each party is within the social distance guidelines of at least 4 feet away from any other party or table.
    • Limit table seating to no more than seven (7) guests per table.

Take Out Food and Beverages

  • Patrons awaiting a take-out order must wait outside of the restaurant.
  • Restaurants may sell alcoholic beverages to patrons with take-out orders.
  • There shall be no service of alcohol alone to persons outside of the restaurant.

Hours of Operation

All food and beverage establishments must be closed from 12:00 AM until 6:00 AM.

All establishments with the following alcohol licenses must stop the sale or distribution of alcohol from 11:00 PM until 8:00 AM daily:

Capacity – 75%, no more than 100 patrons

  • Limit the number of patrons in the establishment to seventy-five percent (75%) of the regular capacity (Business License / Fire Marshall number set before COVID-19 Pandemic) or 100 customers, whichever is less.
    • The total number of patrons inside or outdoors is limited to maintain physical, social distancing requirements.
    • Mass gatherings (100 or more people) are prohibited. (See Below: “Mass Gatherings”  for more information.)

Pool Tables, Darts, Dominos, Dice, and Other Recreational Games are permitted under the following conditions:

  • The pool sticks, other game materials, and surrounding areas must be disinfected after each game.
    • Facial covering masks must be worn at all times, covering the nose and mouth.
    • The social distancing of 6 feet between all players must be maintained.
    • Hand sanitizers must be accessible to all players.

Live Entertainment, Music and Disc Jockey’s (DJ’s)will be allowed in licensed establishments under the following conditions:

  • The entertainer must be ten (10) feet away from staff and patrons while performing.
  • There shall be no dancing by anyone, including staff, inside or outside the establishment. 
  • NO Live music or D entertainment AFTER midnight (12:00 AM). Establishment must be closed by midnight (12:00 AM).

Masks and Social Distancing

Masks and Facial Coverings in Food and Beverage Establishments:

  • Masks and facial covering are always required unless seated at designated seats (bar or table).
  • When a patron gets up from their seat, they must have their masks covering their mouth and nose.
  • All employees must have masks on covering their mouth and nose. See “territory-wide mask guidance” for more details.
  • All other mask laws (listed below) apply to food and beverage establishments and other businesses and public places.

Virgin Islands Territory-Wide Mask Guidance: From Public Health Order 2020 002 Masks and Executive Orders.

Masks or face coverings over the nose and mouth are to be worn:

• When out in public places

• Upon entering any business, and kept on - including in bars and restaurants, unless when eating or drinking - or when exercising as long as 6 ft physical distance can be maintained

• At work where there are others in the same workspace

• At schools, daycare centers, camps, recreational facilities

• In places of worship and at funerals

• On ferry’s and other modes of public transportation This does not apply to children under 2 years of age

Any person who is not in their private home or vehicle must wear a face mask when interacting with another person who doesn’t live in the same house. This includes, but is not limited to, visitors, patrons, employees, managers, directors, or owners of commercial entities or businesses – both public and private.

Social Distancing:

  • In coordination with the Commissioner of the DOH and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance, all persons must maintain social distancing of at least six feet away from other people 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 the elbow) as often as possible.

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 - they DO NOT PREVENT the person wearing the mask from spreading COVID-19 to others.

3) No ski masks and stocking caps. They are not acceptable facial coverings.

4) Masks or facial coverings should NOT be worn by anyone unable to remove the mask without assistance:

  • under the age of 2
  • unconscious,
  • incapacitated.

5) Those individuals with chronic respiratory conditions:

  • should seek advice from their doctor for alternative types of masks,
  • should avoid crowds,
  • must engage in social distancing to prevent putting others at risk.

6) Masks DO NOT have to be worn during active exercise, indoor or outdoor, as long as everyone can maintain a 6-foot distance from other people who aren’t in their household. 

7) All passengers and drivers of mass or public transportation are required to wear a mask.  Including but not limited to

  • Vitran buses,
  • Taxicabs,
  • Ferry Boats, Water Taxis
  • Automobiles or Other Transportation for hire

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 under Section 4 of the Twelfth Supplemental Executive Order issued on August 10, 2020

All individuals are urged to continue to wash their hands, utilize hand sanitizer, and practice proper respiratory etiquette (including coughing into the elbow) as often as possible. 

Special Events

Special Events  

Permits for Food Sales

Mass Gatherings

Mass Gatherings:

  • For purposes of the Safer-at-Home Phase, a mass gathering is defined as any event or convening that brings together more than one hundred (100) persons in a single room or single space at the same time.
  • Spaces shall include but not be limited to: an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, theatre, restaurant, bar, lot, or any other confined indoor or outdoor space.
    • This includes all parades, fairs, campaign events, festivals, and camping on public beaches or parks: 

1) Mass gatherings shall be prohibited in the Territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

2) A mass gathering does not include:

  • Operations for standard-essential services and infrastructure such as grocery stores and big-box stores, airports, seaports, bus stops, medical facilities, or hotels.
  • It also does not include office (government and private) environments, factories, refineries, marinas, construction sites, grocery stores, pharmacies, fuel service stations, or other retail establishments that provide essential services and are large enough to accommodate for the practice of social distancing of six feet or more between persons.

3) The Enforcement Authority and Penalties:

  • All Enforcement Officers are hereby directed to fully enforce Title 23 VIC Sections 371, 372, 372, and 374 regarding Mass Gatherings as prohibited.
  • Any violation of these provisions shall be punishable by a fine of One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00) per congregating person and Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00) per organizer of any such prohibited.

4) Organized Activities:

As authorized by this Subsection, any and all organized activities, as amended, supplemented, renewed, and extended, must obtain approval from the Commissioner of Health in addition to any other regulatory agency with jurisdiction, before the gathering.

Employee Health Measures and Screening

Employee Health Measures and Screening:

Business COVID-19 Mitigation Procedures, Letter From The Commissioner Of Health

Call (340) 712-6299 for specific guidance when a worker is sick and may have exposed others. Employers should plan for potential COVID-19 cases and work with VI DOH as needed. Employers must maintain the confidentiality of employee health information.

Employers must post extensive signage on health policies, including the following documents, in the workplace, to help educate building occupants on COVID-19 best practices:

Employees should self-quarantine if any member of their household has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

  • 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.
  • Workers who seek medical attention or exhibit signs of illness should not report to work. All employees should stay home if feeling ill and report any symptoms of illness to their supervisor.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Food Code and VI DOH require sick workers to remain at home.
  • 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

Screen all employees reporting to work for Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) symptoms using the questionnaire below which should be printed out and completed weekly by each employee and retained by Management.

ATTACHMENT A COVID-19 Screening Questions:

1. Have you been in close contact in the past 14 days with a confirmed case of COVID19?

(Close Contact - Someone who has been within 6 feet of an infected for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period (for example, three individual 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes in one day).FYI: An infected person can spread SARS-CoV-2 starting from 2 days before they have any symptoms (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days before the positive specimen collection date), until they meet criteria for discontinuing home isolation.)

2. Have you been diagnosed with COVID-19?

3. Have you been told by a health care provider or public health official to self-quarantine?

4. Are you experiencing a cough, shortness of breath/difficulty breathing, chills, muscle pain, loss of taste or smell, or sore throat?

5. Have you had a fever in the last 48 hours?

6. Have you had vomiting or diarrhea in the last 24 hours?

Compliance

These orders shall remain in full force and effect so long as the Territory remains in the State of Emergency declared on March 13, 2020, as amended, supplemented, extended, and renewed unless earlier lifted or until rescinded or superseded by another applicable Executive Order by the Governor of the U.S Virgin Islands, to minimize the community spread of COVID-19. www.vi.gov/executive-orders  These regulations are enforced by DOH Environmental Health Inspectors and the COVID-19 Task Force. Non-compliance can result in monetary fines, court hearings, and business closure.

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.

  1. 1st Warning: Written Citation
  2. 2nd Violation: Written Citation with the administrative process for assessing an administrative fine through the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs.
  3. 3rd Violation: Written Citation and a Closure for a period not to exceed seven (7) calendar days unless public health emergency circumstances warrant closure continue as a matter of law.
  4. 4th Violation: If the establishment continues to be non-compliant after exhausting I, 2, and 3, suspension of the Business License and Health Permit may occur.

Guidance

Best Practices for Retail Food Stores, Restaurants, and Food Pick-Up/Delivery Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic | FDA

Prácticas recomendadas para tiendas de alimentos minoristas, restaurantes, y servicios para llevar y entregar alimentos durante la pandemia del COVID-19 | FDA

Please Remember:

  • The best way to keep yourself and the community safe is to get vaccinated. Vaccines and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Virgin Islands Department of Health (covid19usvi.com)
  • Plan for outbreaks and staff accordingly. Remember that your team and your patrons can spread COVID-19 asymptomatically, meaning that they can be infected without knowing it. Plan your workspace and policies around this knowledge.
  • Outdoor dining is preferable over enclosed spaces.
  • Ventilation and air filtering considerations are vital to stopping the spread of COVID-19 among diners.

Hand Sanitization Measures

  • Hand sanitizer: any hand antiseptic with an alcohol content of 60% or more, hand rub, soap, or agent applied to the hands to remove 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).
  • Educate staff on the importance of:
  • Increased handwashing frequency.
  • Not touching hands to face, including eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Good respiratory etiquette when coughing or sneezing.
  • Bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods is prohibited.

Sanitization Measures

  • When possible, use disinfectants that are registered by the EPA to eliminate the treat of COVID-19 on surfaces. List N Tool: COVID-19 Disinfectants | US EPA.
  • Thoroughly detail, clean, and sanitize the entire facility before resuming dine-in services and regularly do so regularly, focusing on cleaning and sanitization on high contact areas that workers or patrons’ touch.
  • According to CDC guidelines, implement workplace cleaning and disinfecting practices, with regular sanitization of high touch surfaces 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.
  • 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.
  • Use menus that are disposable or enclosed in plastic and sanitized between each use. Non-touch menus are suggested, but not required.
  • Between seated parties, clean and sanitize table condiments, digital ordering devices, check presenters, pens, chairs, tabletops, and discard single-use items.
  • Clean and sanitize restrooms regularly, check restrooms based on the frequency of use, and always ensure an adequate supply of liquid hand soap and paper towels.
  • Provide hand sanitizer for use by patrons and employees, including contactless hand sanitizing stations when available. Place hand sanitizer stations in restaurant entrance, lobby, tables, bar counters, bathrooms, and cashier stations including credit card machines.
  • 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 operate at the required wash and rinse temperatures and with the appropriate detergents and sanitizers.

More Information

Environmental Health | USVI Department of Health

Current COVID-19 legislation:  https://www.vi.gov/executive-orders/

Current COVID-19 guidance: https://www.covid19usvi.com/

Vaccines and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Virgin Islands Department of Health (covid19usvi.com)

Coronavirus Information and Resources | National Restaurant Association

ServSafe® - Free Food Safety and Career Development Training | ServSafe

FDA 2017 Food Code – (Searchable PDF)

Considerations for Restaurants and Bars | COVID-19 | CDC

Consideraciones para restaurantes y bares | COVID-19 | CDC

Resuming Business Toolkit | COVID-19 | CDC

Kit de herramientas para reanudar las operaciones comerciales | COVID-19 | CDC


COVID-19 Guidance: Businesses and Employers | CDC
Guía sobre el COVID-19: empresas y empleadores | CDC

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