In recent weeks, as Gov. Gavin Newsom expressed heightened interest in enforcement of businesses regarding health and safety protocols and the Marin County Board of Supervisors’ unanimous approval of an emergency ordinance allowing Marin’s county, city and town government workers to cite violators, tensions have run high for Mill Valley restaurant owners, tensions have risen for restaurant owners in Mill Valley and throughout Marin.

That tension has manifested itself in several ways: complaints on Nextdoor, complaints via the county’s new tip line and and direct complaints to restaurant managers and employees. ​Anecdotally, most of the complaints in Mill Valley have focused on restaurant customers, and more specifically the “customer adjacent” – people on their way to or from an outdoor dining experience – not wearing a mask.

With that in mind, below are the County of Marin’s latest list of best practices and guidelines for restaurants in the COVID-19 era:

Face Covering Order:

  • Members of the public must wear Face Coverings while inside of or waiting in line to enter Essential Businesses and other businesses or facilities engaged in Minimum Basic Operations (except Healthcare Operations, which are subject to different requirements).
  • The order requires employees, contractors, owners, and volunteers of all Essential Businesses or those operating public transportation and other types of shared transportation to wear a Face Covering when at work. 
  • The order also requires workers engaged in Minimum Basic Operations, Essential Infrastructure work, and Essential Government Functions to wear a Face Covering in areas where the public is present or likely to be and at any time when others are nearby.

Note: The order does not require business owners to act as enforcement officers, though they “must take all reasonable steps to prohibit any member of the public who is not wearing a Face Covering from entering and must not serve that person if those efforts are unsuccessful and seek to remove that person.” “Take reasonable measures, such as posting signs, to remind their customers and the public of the requirement that they wear a Face Covering while inside of or waiting in line to enter the business, facility, or location.”

Protect Personnel Health

  • Restaurants should continue to encourage takeout and delivery service whenever possible. Prioritize outdoor seating and curbside pickup to the extent allowable by the local jurisdiction.
  • Dishwashers should use equipment to protect the eyes, nose, and mouth from contaminant splash using a combination of face coverings, protective glasses, and/or face shields. Dishwashers must be provided impermeable aprons and change frequently. Reusable protective equipment such as shields and glasses should be properly disinfected between uses.
  • When utilizing gloves, Personnel shall wash hands before putting on and after removing
  • Discontinue shared use of audio headsets and other equipment between Personnel unless the equipment can be properly disinfected after use. Consult equipment manufacturers to determine appropriate disinfection steps, particularly for soft, porous surfaces such as foam earmuffs.
  • Install physical barriers or partitions at cash registers, bars, host stands, and other areas where maintaining physical distance of six feet is difficult.
  • Eliminate person-to-person contact for delivery of goods whenever possible. Designate drop-off locations to receive deliveries away from high traffic areas.
  • Personnel should not open the doors of cars or taxis.
  • Personnel moving items used by customers (dirty cups, plates, napkins, etc.) or handling trash bags should use disposable gloves (and wash hands before putting them on and after removing them) and aprons and change frequently.

Physical distancing

  • Remove tables and chairs from dining areas so that six feet of physical distance can be maintained for customers and Personnel.
  • Place tape or markings at least six feet apart in any area where members of public may form a line.
  • Encourage reservations or advise people to call in advance to confirm seating/serving capacity. Consider a phone reservation system that allows people to queue or wait in cars and enter only when a phone call, text, or other method, indicates that a table is ready.
  • Limit the number of patrons at a single table to a household unit or patrons who have asked to be seated together, with no more than a total of 10 patrons sitting at any given table. People in the same group seated at the same table do not have to be six feet apart.
  • All members of the party must be present before seating and hosts must bring the entire party to the table at one time.
  • Utilize expanded outdoor seating where possible along right of ways or other outdoor areas as approved by local jurisdictions.

Measures to increase sanitization and disinfection

  • Ensure that all utensils and food-ware are properly washed, rinsed and sanitized. Manual sanitization: submerge in rinse solution with 100 ppm chlorine sanitizer for a minimum of 30 seconds or a solution of 200 ppm of quaternary ammonium for at least one minute. Mechanical sanitization in the final rinse at: utensil surface temperature of 160 F; or contact with 50 ppm chlorine solution for at least 30 seconds; or contact with 25 ppm iodine solution for at least 30 seconds.  If this cannot be reasonably accommodated, only single-service utensils or food-ware should be used.
  • Reusable customer items including utensils, food ware, breadbaskets, etc., must be properly washed, rinsed, and sanitized. Cleaned flatware, stemware, dishware, etc., must be properly stored away from customers and personnel until ready for use. Use disposable items if proper cleaning of reusable items is infeasible.
  • Remove dirty linens from dining tables from dining areas in sealed bags. Personnel should wear gloves when handling dirty linens.
  • Thoroughly clean each customer dining location and condiments after each use. Frequently clean items touched by patrons, especially those that might attract contact from children including candy and toy vending machines, decorative fish tanks, display cases, decorative fountains, etc.
  • Frequently disinfect commonly used surfaces including doors, door handles, crash bars, light switches, waiting area chairs, credit card terminals, ATM PIN pads, receipt trays, bus tubs, serving trays, water pitcher handles, phones, toilets, and handwashing facilities.
  • Restrooms must be cleaned and disinfected every hour.

Measures to prevent unnecessary contact

  • No self-service condiment caddies, utensil caddies, napkins, lids, straws, water pitchers, to-go containers, ice, buffets, salad bars, beverage stations, etc.
  • Use of self-service machines, such as frozen yogurt machines, shall not be allowed as determined by local public health orders.
  • Provide disposable or digitally available menus. If not, disinfect menus between use. Consider options for customers to order ahead of time.
  • Discontinue pre-setting tables with napkins, cutlery, glassware, food ware, etc. These should be supplied individually to customers as needed. Do not leave card stands, flyers, napkin holders, or other items on tables.
  • Supply single serve disposable condiment containers only, or if that is not possible provide shared condiments only upon customer request and sanitize condiment containers thoroughly after each use.
  • Pre-roll utensils in napkins prior to use by customers. Personnel must wash hands before pre-rolling utensils in napkins. The pre-roll should then be stored in a clean container. After customers are seated, the pre-roll should be put on the table by Personnel who recently washed their hands.
  • Discontinue tableside food preparation and presentation such as food item selection carts and conveyor belts, guacamole preparation, etc.
  • Discontinue use of shared entertainment items such as board games, pool tables, arcade games, vending machines, etc. Close game and entertainment areas where customers may share items such as bowling alleys, etc.
  • Takeout containers provided for leftovers must be filled by customers and available only upon request.
  • Customers shall not be permitted to bring their own bags, mugs, or other reusable items from home.
  • Do not leave mints, candies, snacks, and toothpicks out; provide only as
  • Limit the number of Personnel who serve individual parties. Consider assigning the same Personnel to each party for the entire experience (as long as there is no conflict with mandatory meal and rest break laws).
  • All restaurant workers should minimize the amount of time spent within six feet of guests and other Personnel.
  • Encourage contactless payment systems with customers.
  • Takeout food items should be made available using contactless pick-up and delivery protocols.
  • Restaurants should increase fresh air circulation by opening windows or doors, if possible to do so.
  • Bar areas should remain closed to customers.

Shade structures

  • Umbrellas, canopies and other shade structures are only allowed if they do not have sides and allow for the free flow of air through the space.

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