Indoor Dining for Licensed On-Premises Establishments

GUIDANCE AS OF April 7, 2021

Licensed On-Premises Establishments (e.g. restaurants, bars, taverns, clubs, catering establishments, manufacturers with on-premises privileges, etc.) may serve food and beverages in indoor spaces with seating for customers in accordance with these guidelines, although the restrictions  applying outside of New York City and inside New York City vary, as discussed below.


During the COVID-19 public health emergency, all licensees should stay up to date with any changes to state and federal requirements related to such establishments and incorporate those changes into their operations. This guidance is not intended to replace any existing applicable local, state, or federal laws, regulations, or standards.


Q & A Regarding Indoor Dining


Q: I am an SLA licensed on premises establishment, can I resume indoor service of alcoholic beverages?

A: Yes. You may offer indoor service consistent with the Department of Health’s interim guidance on food service (75% capacity, proper spacing, use of face coverings, etc.) found HERE, and any other applicable guidance/law, including the ABC Law and SLA guidance. 


Q: Can food and/drink be consumed while standing?

A: No, all consumption must be while seated at tables, bars, counters, or similar contrivances. Note however that, currently, bars may not be used in New York City to seat or serve patrons at all, at any time, or at any percentage of occupancy 


Q: I understand that counter service is limited, does that mean that customers may not sit at my lunch counter or bar?

 A: No, patrons may continue to sit at a bar or counter in the same manner as is required under the DOH interim guidances, e.g., parties of no more than 10, 6-foot distance between parties, etc.  

Please note that while table service is generally required, if an establishment had no table service prior to now and continues to not have table service, the counter may be used for walk-up ordering under the following restrictions: (1) all patrons ordering and all employees taking orders must wear appropriate face coverings, pursuant to DOH’s interim guidance, (2) all patrons (who are of separate parties) that are ordering from the bar/counter must be spaced at least 6 feet apart, pursuant to DOH’s interim guidance, (3) at no time shall more than 5 patrons be standing at the bar/counter at the same time, (4) markings shall be placed on the floor to indicate proper spacing, (5) once an order is made, patrons should either receive their food and/or drink then, or return to their table and wait until called to pick up their order, i.e., patrons should be at the bar/counter only to place, pay for, or receive an order.

Q: I am a licensee that offers on premises service, can I have dancing?

A: Dancing is generally not permitted pursuant to the Department of Health guidance; it is permitted only in the manner provided for in the In-Person and Catered Events section of the DOH Food Services Guidance


Q: I am a licensee that offers on premises service, can patrons play pool, darts, axe throwing, or other similar games?

A: Beginning on March 5, 2021, those activities specifically outlined in the revised DOH Interim Guidance on Sports and Recreation may be carried out according to the guidelines outlined in such guidance, (e.g., 50% capacity, proper distancing, standing only when participating, use of face coverings at all times, etc.). 

Note as well that all other aspects of the DOH food service guidance, SLA guidance, and other relevant agency guidance apply.


Q:  Regarding seats at a bar, can a group of patrons from the same party sit next to each other, or must they be separated by six feet?

A: Patrons from the same party may sit next to each other in bar areas or at communal tables, provided the party is 10 persons or fewer.  Patrons of different parties must be separated by at least 6 feet or a physical barrier whether at bar stools or communal tables.


Q: Can I have live entertainment or a DJ in my indoor or outdoor dining area?

A: Restaurants  and other on premises food and beverage establishments that have a license through the SLA are only allowed to offer on-premise music if their license certificate specifically allows for such activity (i.e., live music, DJ, recorded, etc.). A manufacturer that has an on premises license also must ensure that its on premises license certificate specifically allows for the type of music it is offering.  A manufacturer without a separate on premises license may offer music unless its license certificate specifically prohibits such music. 


If offering music or other live entertainment events indoors, all relevant aspects of the respective Department of Health Food Services Guidance and the Performing Arts & Entertainment Guidance and any other relevant DOH or SLA guidance must be followed, e.g., capacity limits, patrons should not be standing except for necessary reasons (e.g., restroom, entering/exiting) and as provided in the live entertainment guidance, standing patrons should wear face coverings, etc.   Performers must be at least 12 feet from patrons or separated by a physical barrier. 


All other forms of live entertainment, such as exotic dancing, comedy shows, etc., may be offered in strict compliance with the Small and Medium Scale Performing Arts & Entertainment Guidance


Events may be advertised and ticketed.


Unticketed and unadvertised music which is incidental to dining is not subject to the live entertainment capacity limits, but is subject to all requirements under the Food Services Guidance, e.g., 75% or 50% indoor capacity, 6 foot spacing between tables, patrons wearing face coverings other than when seated, etc. 


Q: Can food and/or drink be consumed on a golf course?

A: Only as provided in the Food Services Guidance, e.g., by patrons seated at tables, 6 feet apart, etc.


Q: As a liquor store, manufacturer, bar, restaurant, can I conduct tastings?

A: Yes, a tasting involves consumption of beverage that must be done  consistent with the Department of Health’s interim guidance on food service (seated guests, proper spacing, use of face coverings, etc.) found here, any other applicable guidance/law, including the ABC Law and SLA guidances.  The same rules apply for indoor service. 


Q: I am a bar/restaurant owner that has a method of operation that allows for live entertainment, e.g., exotic dancing, comedy shows, etc., can I provide live entertainment currently both indoor and outdoor?

A: Yes, provided you follow all aspects of the Food Services Guidance and Performing Arts & Entertainment Guidance (performers at least 12 feet from patrons at all times, patrons wearing face coverings unless seated and eating, etc.). 


Q: I operate a bowling alley/axe throwing venue/pool hall, can patrons/players walk to the bar/restaurant to get a drink or food?

A: No, patrons/players must remain seated except to enter/exit/participate in the activity/use the restrooms.   All food and beverage service must be provided through servers and must cease at 11pm.  Patrons must not consume food or beverages while standing.


Q: I operate a bowling alley /axe throwing venue/pool hall, must patrons/players wear face coverings?

A: Yes, at all times other than when consuming food and/or beverage. 


Q: I am the owner of a restaurant/bar, may I offer trivia?

A: Yes, because this activity is done while seated at the patron’s table.  Devices or other items may not be shared, and all patrons and employees must adhere to all SLA and DOH guidelines, e.g., patrons seated at all time except for entry, exit, use of restrooms, all employees wearing masks at all time, tables properly distanced, parties of no more than ten, etc.


Q. Where can I find more detailed guidelines on reopening? 

A: You can find detailed guidelines from the New York State Department of Health, including an affirmation that your business is in compliance with the New York Forward reopening guidance.