On the heels of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's unprecedented advice to halt or drastically reduce large gatherings of people over the next eight weeks, restaurants across the country have been forced to quickly grapple with changing regulations under difficult circumstances.
As more cases of the novel coronavirus are confirmed daily, cities and states have been implementing new guidelines to keep citizens safe.
On March 15, lawmakers in many of the nation's most populated counties announced some of the most drastic measures to enforce social distancing by ordering bars and restaurants to close their dining rooms for extended periods of time. Since Thursday, March 19, many states have rolled out stricter orders that advise residents to stay home, except for essential activities, which include picking up medicine, buying food from grocery stores and getting takeout from restaurants.
While some restaurateurs like Danny Mayer, David Chang and Bobby Flay already made the decision to shutter their own eateries before many official regulations were handed down, thousands of local businesses will be severely impacted by the new orders.
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Whether these closures are implemented by owners or enforced at a municipal or state level, the food service industry will be facing the effects of this pandemic for months, and possibly years, to come.
On March 19, California became the first state to issue a stay-at-home order when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced residents throughout the state must stay at home, with the exception of essential work or shopping activities. All bars, nightclubs, wineries and brewpubs across the state were temporarily ordered to close. Restaurants in the state may remain open, as long as they solely provide takeout or delivery services.
To help small business owners, the city of Los Angeles is working on a fund to offer loans to those affected.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis ordered restaurants, bars and coffeehouses across the state to close dine-in services (takeout and delivery are still permitted) and completely shuttered gyms, casinos, theaters, distilleries, brew pubs and cigar bars. The order went into effect on March 17 and, on Thursday, March 26, was expanded to a statewide stay-at-home order.
More densely populated cities, like Denver, ordered restaurants not to seat patrons in restaurants until May 11.
Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut, alongside the governors of New York and New Jersey, also announced stay-at-home orders on Monday, March 23, with the exception of essential businesses, which includes restaurants that offer takeout and delivery options, pharmacies and grocery stores. According to a press release, the governors from the New York City-metro area hope "these uniform standards" will be an effective regional approach to combatting the virus.
Gov. John Carney issued a stay-at-home order on March 22, and it is expected to last until May 15, "or until the public health threat is eliminated." Grocery stores, specialty food stores, beer, wine and liquor stores, as well as restaurants with takeout or delivery will remain open.
On March 17, Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended all bars and nightclubs from opening for 30 days and ordered restaurants to reduce their density by half.
On March 25, Idaho Gov. Brad Little, ordered residents to stay home, with the exception of essential activities like shopping for food or medical appointments. The initial order is set to expire in 21 days.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered all bars and restaurants in the state to close starting March 16. On Friday, March 20, he updated the closures to last through April 7 as part of the statewide stay-at-home order.
On March 16, Indiana Gov. Eric J. Holcomb required all restaurants, bars and nightclubs within the state to close to dine-in customers. Establishments that serve food via takeout and delivery have been permitted to remain open. On March 23, however, in an effort to help businesses cope with the crisis, Gov. Holcomb issued an executive order allowing establishments (including breweries and bars) with on-premise liquor licenses to sell alcohol via carryout in certain types of containers.
On March 17, Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered the closure of all restaurant dine-in services, however, businesses that sell food are permitted to offer takeout, drive-thru and delivery services. Gatherings of 10 people or more were also required to be canceled until the public health crisis abates.
On March 16, Gov. Andy Beshear restricted all restaurants and bars to cease any in-person traffic with the exception of takeout, drive-thru and delivery. Food businesses located in healthcare facilities are exempt from the order. The governor said that the order can be modified at any time but will remain in effect "throughout the State of Emergency."
Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a stay-at-home order on March 23, after the state's number of confirmed cases reached 800. The order states residents could still go to restaurants for takeout, delivery or drive-thru services.
To limit the spread of the virus, Gov. Larry Hogan closed restaurants, bars, fitness centers and theaters on March 12. The state also prohibited all gatherings of more than 50 people at local venues. Restaurants in healthcare facilities may remain open, and carry-out, drive-thru and delivery are still permitted in eateries that can provide those services. The order went into effect on March 16. Anyone who knowingly violates the order is subject to imprisonment for up to one year, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.
In addition to closing all public and private elementary and secondary schools for three weeks, Gov. Charlie Barker said that any restaurant, bar or establishment which offers food or beverages won't be allowed to serve patrons on site. The measure went into effect effect March 17, and is expected to continue through at least April 6. On March 23, the governor expanded the order to advise all residents to stay at home, except for essential outings.
On March 23, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a "stay home, stay safe" executive order effective the following day after Michigan became one of the top five states with the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases — increasing from zero to 1,000 cases in just 13 days.
On March 17, Gov. Tim Walz initially ordered dine-in restaurants and bars to close across the state through March 27. However, the time period was extended and changed to a new stay-at-home order that started at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, March 28. It is expected to last for two weeks.
On March 13, Gov. Mike Parson declared a state of emergency that enforced social distancing, the cancelation of gatherings with 10 or more people and restrictions on public dining at restaurants or bars, The Missouri Times reported. Starting March 23, many local municipalities enforced stricter stay-at-home orders that allow people to leave their primary residences only for essential activities. These counties include Branson, Cass, Clay, Cole, Columbia, Greene, Jackson, Jefferson, Perry, Platte, Randolph, Ray, St. Joseph and St. Louis. The order is likely to be active for the next month.
On March 24, two weeks after a declaration of emergency was declared in the Silver State, Gov. Steve Sisolak signed an emergency directive advising groups of 10 or more not to gather and ordering individuals to stay home when possible and, when in public, people should practice social distancing with strangers. Drive-thru, takeout and delivery services are still permitted at restaurants throughout the state, though all major casinos in Las Vegas closed down earlier this month.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced a stay-at-home order effective March 24. It permits people to perform essential outings, like going to purchase food at stores or via takeout, drive-thru and delivery.
New York and New Jersey
On March 17, all restaurants, bars and cafes in both New York state and New Jersey were limited to offering takeout and delivery services only.
On March 21, New Jersey announced an executive stay-at-home order for any nonessential outings. A "New York State on PAUSE" went into effect Monday, March 23, which also ordered every nonessential business to close.
On March 17, Gov. Roy Cooper limited all bars and restaurants to takeout or delivery services only. Grocery stores, gas stations and convenience stores may remain open, but cannot allow patrons to sit down. The order also lifted some of the restrictions on unemployment benefits to help those affected by closures, even if they are still employed and not receiving a paycheck.
Gov. Mike DeWine announced March 15 that he had ordered all bars and restaurants in the state to shut down service effective that night, NBC News reported. DeWine said carryout and delivery services were not included in the order, and added that his administration is working to help small businesses. On Sunday, March 22, Ohio issued a two-week, stay-at-home order to state residents.
Gov. Kate Brown placed a statewide ban on non-essential activities and restricted restaurants and bars to takeout and delivery only on March 16. The governor expanded the order on March 23 and told Oregonians to "stay home, save lives" whenever possible and practice social distancing when leaving their houses for essential activities.
Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all restaurants and bars in the state's most populous countries to suspend dine-in services on March 16. The measure was expected to last two weeks but has expanded into most of the states' largest counties, including the cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, to a stay-at-home order that became effective on March 23. Takeout, delivery and drive-through food business is still permitted.
After declaring a state of emergency on March 9, Gov. Gina Raimondo ordered restaurants, bars and coffee shops to close sit-down dining areas and remain open only for drive-thru and delivery. On March 28, Raimondo created a stay-at-home order to remain in effect until at least April 13, unless "renewed, modified or terminated" by another order.
Takeout and delivery services will be the only restaurant services available to customers throughout South Carolina, the governor announced after coronavirus cases continued to rise, on March 17. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has also been encouraging residents to stay home.
"We’re all in this together, and it is incumbent upon all of us to take action to stop the spread of COVID-19. If you can, we encourage you to please stay home and limit your close contact with others," Dr. Jonathan Knoche, DHEC physician, said in a release on March 29.
After declaring a state of emergency on March 13, Gov. Phil Scott announced that he was ordering all restaurants and bars to close, except for takeout service, through April 6, with a possibility of the order being extended. A "stay home, stay safe" order went into effect at 5 p.m. on March 25.
Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington State, which, up until recently, had the second highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country, signed a statewide emergency proclamation ordering all restaurants, bars, entertainment and recreational facilities to shut down temporarily on March 16. Although no dine-in services are permitted, restaurants are allowed to serve takeout. Grocery stores and pharmacies are also exempt from the ban.
West Virginia was the last of the 50 states to confirm a COVID-19 case. The state had already started ordering restaurants and bars to close, with the exception of carry-out and delivery services, before a statewide, stay-at-home order was issued on Tuesday, March 24.
Wisconsin banned restaurants and bars from serving customers at sit-down tables on March 17, though delivery and takeover has been permitted throughout the state. There is no date set for when they will be allowed to reopen. On March 23, Gov. Tony Evers ordered residents to stay at home as much as possible, with the exception of essential activities.
In municipalities and states that have not yet implemented strict regulations, the CDC is still urging that any kind of large gathering (with 50 people or more) be canceled or postponed for the next two months.
"Events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populations, hand hygiene, and social distancing. When feasible, organizers could modify events to be virtual," read the latest CDC guidelines, released March 15.
Before heading out, stay up to date on your city or state's latest guidelines regarding restaurant closures by visiting its official government-run website or the CDC.
In the meantime, to help your favorite local businesses that may be struggling in the wake of these restrictions, buy gift cards to use at a later date or call to ask if any new takeout or delivery options are available, as many restaurants are now offering no-contact delivery food orders.