While takeout and delivery are available pretty much everywhere, the rules for indoor and outdoor dining are different everywhere. More frustratingly, they are subject to frequent change as the pandemic situation evolves. With vaccinations off to a slow start, a definitive reopening and complete return to normal is still off in the distant horizon.
In the meantime, we’ve compiled some a snapshot to help you understand the situation in every state plus DC and Puerto Rico. How to use the guide:
“L” means that the situation varies widely by local rules at the city or county level.
Even states where indoor / outdoor dining is open (“Y”) may have rules regarding social distancing, for example 6 foot distance between tables and maximum number of guests per table. States marked as open (“Y”) may also have varying local restrictions.
Subject to local regulations and capacity restrictions
Covid-19 struck California especially hard towards the end of 2020, which led the governor to issue a regional stay-at-home orders. While takeout and delivery was never banned, all in-person dining was paused in affected regions.
The order was recently lifted, which means that many localities are reopening outdoor dining, including San Francisco and Los Angeles. Cities are expected to have additional capacity restrictions (many at 50%) and other requirements to ensure the safety of diners.
In addition, California has lifted the 10pm – 5am curfew that was in effect during the stay-at-home emergency, though San Francisco will continue to enforce it.
Adding to the confusion has been conflicting directives between local and state authorities. Austin has a 5-stage classification for pandemic severity, and at stage 5 it has recommended bars and restaurants to shut down indoor dining and limit outdoor dining to 50%, and ending service at 10pm. However these are contradicted by orders from the state, which has led to lawsuits being filed, further muddying the picture.
What about New York?
New York was an early epicenter of the Covid pandemic in Spring 2020. While it brought the virus mostly under control through the summer, by the fall it had surged again and the state took action to slow the spread.
Indoor dining in NYC restaurants has recently reopened at 25% capacity.
Florida has one of the most permissive regimes for restaurant operation during the pandemic. Since September, the state has allowed operation at pre-pandemic levels without capacity restrictions. Localities are allowed to impose additional restrictions with formal public health justifications, though the state requires that indoor dining capacity cannot be dropped below 50%. Miami is one of the cities that have imposed an additional 50% capacity restriction.