Phase 3/4 Guidelines for Licensed On-Premises Establishments

Licensed On-Premises Establishments (e.g. restaurants, bars, taverns, clubs, catering establishments, manufacturers with on-premises privileges, etc.) located in regions that have reached Phase 3, may open indoor spaces with seating for customers, in accordance with these guidelines.


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, and federal laws, regulations, and standards.


Q & A Regarding Phase 3/4


Q: I am in a region which has entered Phase 3/4 of reopening, can I resume indoor service of alcoholic beverages?

A: Yes, consistent with the Department of Health’s interim guidance on indoor and outdoor food service (50% capacity, proper spacing, use of face coverings, etc.) found here, any other applicable guidance/law, including the ABC Law and SLA guidance. 



In New York City, indoor dining is limited to no more than 25% of the maximum occupancy, exclusive of employees.  DOH Guidelines for NYC indoor dining can be found HERE.  


Additionally, as part of the Governor’s cluster action initiative to address COVID-19 hot spots, Licensees can check whether their business is located in a “hot spot” zone HERE.  


Q: I understand that in Phase 2, I was unable to serve outdoors under a fixed roof, is that still true in Phase 3/4?

A: No, in Phase 3, the Department of Health has provided that outdoor service may occur under fixed and temporary roofs, so long as the area utilized is open on at least two sides. 


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

A: No, all consumption must be while seated at tables, bars, counters, or similar contrivances.  This does not change regardless of phase.


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 in a Phase 2/3/4 region, can I have dancing or offer bar games such as darts, pool, or cornhole?

A: No, under the Department of Health interim guidance for outdoor dining and indoor dining, all persons who are not already seated (e.g., waiting for food, or waiting to be seated), should be encouraged to wait in their vehicle and/or leave the premises.  Congregating other than persons seated at tables is not permissible. Patrons should be standing only for necessary reasons such as use of restrooms, entering, and exiting. 


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 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 assure 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, indoors or out, all relevant aspects of the respective Department of Health guidance dining must be followed, e.g., patrons should not be standing except for necessary reasons (e.g., restroom, entering/exiting), standing patrons should wear face coverings, etc.   Performers should be at least 12 feet from patrons. 

All other forms of live entertainment, such as exotic dancing, comedy shows, karaoke etc., are not permissible currently regardless of phase. 

Additionally, please note that only incidental music is permissible at this time.  This means that advertised and/or ticketed shows are not permissible.  Music should be incidental to the dining experience and not the draw itself. 


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

A: Only as provided in the Guidance, e.g., outdoors, 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 outdoor 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: Are weddings, parties and large gatherings allowed under the phase 3/phase 4 guidelines?  

A: Yes, provided the party is the lesser of 50% of your indoor capacity and 10 persons or fewer in any phase 2 region,  25 persons or fewer in any phase 3 region, or 50 or fewer in any phase 4 regions,  and provided the business follows SLA guidances and the Department of Health’s interim guidance on indoor or outdoor food service (seated guests, proper spacing, use of face coverings, etc.) found here, any other applicable guidance/law, including the ABC Law and SLA guidance.  This means no dancing or other standing activities, generally.


Q: I operate under a club license that does not serve food, are we allowed to reopen under Phase 2/3/4 guidelines? 

A: Yes, a club license does not require food service, and you may open consistent with the Department of Health’s interim guidance on indoor and outdoor food service (seated guests, 50% capacity indoors, proper spacing, use of face coverings, etc.), any other applicable guidance/law, including the ABC Law and SLA guidance. 


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

A: No, generally incidental music is the only form of live entertainment which is permissible in a bar/restaurant setting currently (in any phase of New York Forward) - so long as  see above FAQ on live music.  For further information on specific circumstances, please check with Empire State Development, and the following tool:


Q: I operate a bowling alley, can patrons/players walk to the bar/restaurant in the alley to get a drink or food?

A: No, patrons/players must remain seated except to enter/exit/bowl/use the restrooms.   All food and beverage service must be provided through servers.  Patrons should not consume drink or food while standing.


Q: I operate a bowling alley, must patrons/players wear face coverings?

A: Yes, at all times other than when seated and 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, including an affirmation that your business is in compliance with the New York Forward reopening guidance.