The administration suppressed a helpful CDC guidance for bars and restaurants re-opening during COVID-19. But what was in it? Bonus: we’ve got the suppressed guidance for you.

On May 8 OSHA released its short “guidelines” regarding bars and restaurants provision of limited services during the COVID-19 epidemic, detailing a somewhat weak list of “tips” and using language no sterner than that it recommended actions. 

Those guidelines were accompanied by an equally vague and unhelpful infographic. The lack of proper insight and information is unhelpful to many bars and restaurants, especially given the state-by-state nature of operational allowance and the fact that congress has not insulated businesses from lawsuits by their customers or from employees for injuries or fatalities occurring on account of the virus. 

Interestingly, as the AP has reported, the CDC had produced a more detailed advice document with step-by-step guidance for opening bars and restaurants and other public places (schools, camps, churches, daycares, and employers with vulnerable workers) but that the report was scuttled by the administration with an official at the CDC telling the associated press that CDC was informed that their guidance to bars and restaurants and other public businesses “would never see the light of day.” Reporting the statement, the AP report details the rejoinder from the administration as “White House officials have refrained from offering detailed guidance for how specific sectors should reopen because the virus is affecting various parts of the country differently.” 

The main guidance document linked above suggested things like sneeze guards at cash registers, seating at least 6 feet apart, not using buzzers, avoiding buffets and drink stations.

The documents encompassing the guidance also involved decision trees.

Some other interesting information from the documentation involved the phased plan for reopening:

  • (Re)Opening
  • In all Phases:
    • Establish and continue communication with State and local authorities to determine current mitigation levels in your community.
    • Consider assigning vulnerable workers duties that minimize their contact with customers and other employees (e.g., managing inventory rather than working as a cashier, managing administrative needs through telework).
    • Provide employees from higher transmission areas (earlier Phase areas) telework and other options as feasible to eliminate travel to workplaces in lower transmission (later phase) areas and vice versa.
  • Phase 1: Bars remain closed and restaurant service should remain limited to drive through, curbside take out, or delivery with strict social distancing.
  • Phase 2: Bars may open with limited capacity; restaurants may open dining rooms with limited seating capacity that allows for social distancing.
  • Phase 3: Bars may open with increased standing room occupancy that allows for social distancing; restaurants may operate while maintaining social distancing.

Here is the full recommendation that got suppressed which you will see included detailed information about safety operations compared with the OSHA guidance – the bars and restaurants portion starts on page 12:


Ashley Brandt

Hi there! I’m happy you’re here. My name is Ashley Brandt and I’m an attorney in Chicago representing clients in the Food and Beverage, Advertising, Media, and Real Estate industries. A while back I kept getting calls and questions from industry professionals and attorneys looking for advice and information on a fun and unique area of law that I’m lucky enough to practice in. These calls represented a serious lack of, and need for, some answers, news, and information on the legal aspects of marketing and media. I've got this deep seeded belief that information should be readily available and that the greatest benefit from the information age is open access to knowledge... so ... this blog seemed like the best way to accomplish that. I enjoy being an attorney and it’s given me some amazing opportunities, wonderful experiences, and an appreciation and love for this work. I live in Chicago and work at an exceptional law firm, Goldstein & McClintock, with some truly brilliant people. Feel free to contact me at any time with any issues, comments, concerns… frankly, after reading this far, I hope you take the time to at least let me know what you think about the blog and how I can make it a better resource.

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