Restaurants (Outdoor Seating) Reopening Guidelines

Restaurant image

Guiding PrinciplesReopening ProcessesPhysical Space SetupPersonal Protection for Employees
 Health Guidance for EmployeesCleaning and Disinfecting 

Connecticut’s Governor Ned Lamont extended a mandatory shutdown in the state, until May 20, 2020, this included Outdoor Restaurants.

On April 30, 2020, Governor Lamont outlined a list of industries that officials in the state re-opening on May 20, 2020. The list includes the opening of Restaurants for Outdoor Dining only.

Restaurants must fill out this Temporary Outdoor Dining Permit Application. Please prepare all necessary documents and the City will process your application as quickly as possible

Restaurants Outdoor OnlyCity of Stamford Guidelines
State Outdoor Restaurants Guidelines City of Stamford Outdoor Restaurant Reopening Guidelines
  • All businesses subject to these guidelines are required to self-certify prior to opening May 20th. The certification system can be accessed here.
  • If you are a business, organization, or individual with a question, concern, or comment about reopening, please fill out this form.
  • Learn how to obtain an Outdoor Dining Tent

Guiding Principles


As the State of Connecticut starts opening select businesses on May 20th, the State will open at the strictest controls on business operations and societal interaction. This will include, among other measures:

  • Capacity limit of 50% occupancy of the area for businesses that reopen.
  • Strict cleaning and disinfection protocols in all settings.
  • Those who can work from home should continue to do so
  • Those in high-risk groups (comorbidities) and over the age of 65 should continue to stay safe and stay home.
  • Facemasks should continue to be worn in public at all times.
  • Social gatherings will be restricted to a maximum of 5 people.

While these rules provide a way for offices to reopen in as safe a manner as possible, risks to employees cannot be fully mitigated. Employees who choose or are instructed to return to their workplace during this time should be fully aware of potential risks. Individuals over the age of 65 or with other health conditions should not visit offices, but instead continue to stay home and stay safe.

These rules are intended to help offices, including non-essential business in office buildings safely get back to work. Businesses should take these rules as the minimum baseline of precautions needed to protect public health in Connecticut. The City of Stamford’s Reopen Stamford Advisory Working Groups have included additional guidance to help with the opening process. Individual businesses should also take additional measures as recommended by industry guidelines or by common sense applied to their particular situation. We urge employees to stay vigilant and pay attention as to whether their offices are faithfully implementing these rules.

It is important that these rules and guidance may be updated as the State progresses through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The following pyramid highlights important steps in mitigating the risk of increased COVID-19 cases. Executed effectively, they can foster the return of consumer confidence when dining out.

Reopening Pyramid

Reopening Processes


The health and safety of our residents in your establishment is a top priority for the City of Stamford. The following recommendations will help ensure clean and healthy work environments. We encourage individuals to take personal responsibility and take an active role in maintaining a clean and healthy workplace. The following guidance incorporates the State of Connecticut’ Reopen Connecticut Small Business Implementation Task Force sector rules for May 20th reopening and guidance from the City of Stamford’s Department of Health.

For restaurants, only outdoor areas can open at this time. Indoor areas and bar areas shall remain closed. These rules are intended to help restaurants safely get back to work.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has identified five (5) major “Risk Factors” that are the root cause for outbreaks in the food service industry. The list includes:

  • Improper hot/cold holding temperatures
  • Improper cooking temperatures
  • Contaminated utensils and equipment
  • Poor employee health and personal hygiene
  • Food from unsafe source

It is important to note that there is no documented evidence that food plays any role in the transmission of this COVID-19 pandemic; however, it is imperative that foodservice operators and their certified food protection managers (CFPM) continue to ensure there are controls in place for continued mitigation of these “Risk Factors.”

During this COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC has emphasized the importance of maintaining “Good Healthy Habits and Personal Hygiene,” as well as “Maintaining a Sanitary Environment.” Controlling these very important risk factors coupled with the recommended “Physical 6 feet Social Distancing,” should be the goal of all owners, CFPMs, and the food workers they supervise.



An owner of any food service establishment seeking to provide outdoor dining on publicly or privately owned property, shall make an application to the Zoning Enforcement Officer of the City of Stamford for a permit to provide Outdoor Dining. No fee will be charged.

The issuance of Outdoor Dining permit shall require the approval of the Zoning Enforcement Officer, The Building Department, The Director of Health Inspections or his or her designee, The Fire Marshal, and the Chief of Police or his/her designee and per the Governor’s Executive Order # 7MM dated 5/12/20, shall be processed within 10 days of receipt.

To expedite the process, owners must secure and provide the following:

  • Completed application and all supportive documents including narrative explaining control of noise, odor, light pollution, and the management of anticipated environmental impact.
  • Certificate of insurance - with the City and its officers & employees as additional insured party.
  • License agreement with the City.
  • Indemnity certificate.
  • Plan for review roughly scaled with reasonable accuracy depicting the proposed outdoor area – include sidewalks, ingress & egress, location of and distances between tables, chairs, partitions and perimeter boundaries. Please coordinate with adjacent property owners. (Plan does not need to stamped by a licensed engineer or architect)
  • There shall be no bar in the outdoor space; do not include one in the plan.
  • Wait for your permit to be issued before opening. It will be sent to you electronically via email.



Permitted proprietors shall adhere to all regulations set forth in CT Public Health Code Section 19-13-B42, CT Public Act 17-93, the Governor’s Executive Orders, and all CDC guidelines regarding COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior to Reopening:

  • Early and consistent communication: As your restaurant develops its reopening plan, keep your staff informed as soon as appropriate.
  • As per State of Connecticut, place COVID-19 Signage which must be an outdoor, non-internally-illuminated, non-animated signage that is 15 square feet in size or smaller and contains directions, social distancing instructions, or other signage that might customarily be displayed within the building, including but not limited to menus or specials.
  • Before opening, terminally clean and sanitize the entire restaurant, including the new outdoor annex and kitchen.
  • Alert your customers of your anticipated reopening date, and the menu offerings.
  • Notify the Chamber of Commerce or any other entities that may be resourceful in garnering customers.

Develop and Conduct Staff Training:


The Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM) shall:

  • During staff training sessions, underscore with staff to treat all patrons as potentially infected while maintaining a cordial manner, i.e., greet guests with enthusiasm and hospitality at a distance.
  • Instruct staff to adhere to all safety guidelines when interacting with customers and peers including use of a facemask and to maintain six (6) feet distance as allowed by the task that they are doing.
  • Re-train all employees on hand washing – including when needed, and proper procedure to do so.
  • Mandate no bare hands handling of Time Temperature Control For Safety (ready to eat) Foods.
  • Remind staff that reservations are encouraged to ensure seating.
  • Instruct staff not to touch face or other body parts.
  • Conduct constant re-training for ALL employees and contracted staff on proper procedures for environmental cleaning & sanitization.

Physical Space Setup

Preparing the Restaurant for Reopening: 

  • Make appointment with the Department of Health for a preoperational inspection at least a week prior to your scheduled opening.
  • Alert vendors, to ensure fulfillment of supplies – this includes, but is not limited to - food, produce, take out containers, chemicals, EPA – registered sanitizers, masks, and gloves.
  • Place visible six (6) feet distance markings throughout the facility including before the bathroom doors.
  • If not already in place, explore “cashless transactions,” if point of sale (POS) systems and credit card portals are used, and customers must sign or enter PIN numbers, have a plan in place to sanitize the portals and stylus pens after each use.
  • Institute physical barriers between people as deemed necessary, at booths, hostess point of entry etc.
  • CFPM shall set up designated areas in the establishment, if they are simultaneously offering “pick up & delivery services.” Add floor markings and physical barriers, to maintain appropriate social distance.
  • Have the kitchen’s air exchange rate adjusted in the ventilation system. Contact your hood system contractor to increase the percentage of outdoor air that circulates into the system where possible.

Prepare the Outside Dining Area for Opening:

  • Rooftop dining will be permitted.
  • Ensure receipt of Outdoor Dining Permit During COVID-19 Emergency.  Allow 10 days for processing.
  • Place hand sanitizer near entrances and other commonly used areas.
  • Review the facility’s menu and revise as needed for your specific outdoor application.
  • Institute single use paper menus, or written menu boards, or whiteboards only. Reusable menus are prohibited.
  • Explore having customers make orders from their electronic devices, and announce their arrival.  In addition to less social contact, this will promote more accurate and faster service & faster table turn over.
  • Ensure that all tables and chairs are placed so that occupants of each table are (6) feet apart. Furnishings shall consist solely of movable tables and chairs.
  • The outdoor dining area must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act regarding accessibility.
  • The outdoor dining area / sidewalk café may be covered by an awning type (removable /retractable roof) or umbrella at the table to protect the food from the elements.
  • All tents over 400 sq.ft. will need a building permit or combination of canopies without a 10 foot gap equaling 400 sq.ft. and  approved by the Fire Marshal, Zoning & Health Departments during the plan review application process. Tents with sidewalls will be considered a structure (per code) and will not be allowed since this is for outdoor dining only.
  • There must be a 6-foot clearance for pedestrian passage on sidewalks and non-vehicular rights of way.
  • A “bus stand” and clean covered refuse receptacle shall be maintained in the outdoor area at all times to discard uneaten food.
  • Hours of Operation per Governor’s Executive Order # 7MM - Fridays & Saturdays until 11 PM; other days of week until 9 PM.

Service of the Outside Dining Area:

  • LIMIT PARTIES, TO maximum five (5), to accommodate social distancing and encourage guests from only the same household to dine together.  
  • The CFPM shall be responsible for tracking and enforcing revised capacity limits (50%).
  • There shall be no sale of alcohol beverages independent of the sale of food for consumption.
  • There shall be no service bar in the outdoor dining area / sidewalk café.
  • If a table covering will be used, please use a disposable table covering that must be changed after each patron.
  • Only single use condiments and pre-wrapped / packaged silverware should be offered at the table. Tables shall not be preset. Condiments shall not be stored in exposed areas.
  • Patrons shall be served only by the establishment food workers or contracted workers.
  • Servers shall be assigned to serve one specific zone at all times. No overlapping or crossing over is permitted. This helps with contact tracing in the event customer or worker becomes ill.
  • All glasses and utensils shall be stored inside the establishment and must be properly protected at all times.
  • All food and drink while being stored, prepared, displayed, served or sold at food service establishments, or during transportation between such establishments, shall be protected from dust, flies, vermin, depredation and pollution by rodent. covering could be as simple as parchment paper, film wrap or foil.
  • Any changes to orders that have been served (i.e., placed on the table), shall be discarded and not returned to the kitchen.
  • Once served, uneaten foods shall not be returned to the inside establishment.
  • Patrons’ leftover food for take home must be (boxed), handled by the customers only.
  • No food or beverage preparation or cooking shall be conducted outside.
  • If high temperature dish-machine is used, the CFPM shall ensure that a minimum of 160 degrees F is maintained at the wash cycle and a minimum of 180 degrees F is maintained at the rinse cycle, OR, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on the side plate of a NSF certified machine. Low temperature machine must maintain a minimum of 120 degrees F and the sanitizer meets the established concentration as defined by the manufacturer.


  • Remind customers that reservations are encouraged to guarantee seating. It is recommended that each table be booked for one hour and that there should be time allowed to clean tables and chairs.
  • There will be no clustering in public and common areas.
  • Remind customers that wearing a mask is mandatory for seating and must be kept on at all times except while eating. Guests who do not conform to wearing masks shall be excluded from the establishment.

Personal Protection for Employees



  • Estimate required personal protection for employees and begin procuring.
  • All establishment employees or contracted workers shall wear facemasks, hair restraints, and disposable gloves for service. Bus person shall wear gloves and facemask at all times.
  • Employees may utilize their own cloth face covering over that provided by their employer if they choose.
  • Employees may utilize their own cloth face covering over that provided by their employer if they choose.
  • Provide all chefs / cooks with disposable single use plastic spoons for tasting, and monitor for adherence.
  • Instruct staff on the proper use of PPE, including correct use of disposable gloves such as washing hands before putting on and after removing gloves, changing  gloves when soiled, contaminated or torn,  and removing when chores are completed.

Health Guidance for Employees

  • The restaurant will need to appoint a program administrator who is accountable for implementing these rules. The City recommends that either the Owner or the Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM) hold this role.
  • A CFPM must be on site DURING ALL HOURS OF OPERATION to ensure safe practices at all times.
  • Determine what staff are essential.
  • The CFPM shall maintain a log of all daily scheduled employees /contractors in attendance.
  • Development of special considerations for employees and/or their family members that fall into at-risk groups (comorbidities) including: Individuals with serious underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, COPD, asthma, renal disease, cancer, dementia, and those whose immune system is compromised such as by chemotherapy for cancer and other conditions requiring such therapy.
  • Exceptions and processes for parents/caregivers when schools are closed, or other caregivers are unavailable.
  • Review the establishment’s Personal Hygiene and the Ill Food Worker Policy with all employees and contracted workers.  If you do not have one, please develop a written one. Refer to State of CT, CDC & FDA Ill food - worker guidelines.
  • Institute a written “Daily Health Check” for symptoms per current CDC guidance and adopt a policy to take employees’ temperatures, prior to start of shift, as well as symptom review onsite. Refer to CDC guideline on acceptable temperature.
  • Explain to all employees the importance of reporting all close and prolonged contact with friends, family members, co-workers from other jobs, who have symptoms, or are diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Develop a procedure for employees who  become ill at work and emphasize the importance of reporting all illness – including COVID-19 symptoms – Refer to CDC website
  • Review the chain of command for reporting “sick call outs” or onsite illnesses. Institute a policy to track “sick call outs.”
  • Post guidance for employees impacted by the coronavirus regarding the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) Access the poster from Department of Labor at

Cleaning and Disinfecting

  • CFPM shall institute a written procedure for cleaning and sanitizing for:
    • The front and back of the house
    • Outdoor dining / café areas
    • Dining tables and chairs (All tables and chairs must be cleaned and sanitized before and after each patron’s use.)
    • Bus / cleaning area
    • Bathroom and toilet facilities
    • Point of sale machines
    • Credit card portals and stylus pens
    • All equipment door handles and high touch areas
    • Entry door handles, establishment bathroom etc.
  • CFPM shall ensure that ALL sanitization products (liquids, granules or tablets) are EPA – Registered.  Look for the EPA registration number on the containers.
  • CFPM shall ensure that ALL sanitization products used, are appropriate for the application. Use only products recommended for food contact surfaces on cutting boards and other food – contact surfaces. Ensure that ALL sanitization products are properly stored when not in use.
  • CFPM shall ensure that ALL sanitization products are prepared and used per manufacturer’s specifications AND ensure the appropriate test strips are in place to validate the concentration.
  • CFPM shall ensure that ALL sanitization products are adhering to the manufacturer’s contact time when used, and air dry as recommended.
  • There must be written pest management and garbage removal schedule for the kitchen outdoor dining area, and common spaces e.g., bathroom.

Establish personal hygiene and safety standards for employees:

  • Require employees to wear clean uniforms / aprons and hair restraints at all times.
  • Prohibit food workers from wearing jewelry while preparing and serving food.
  • Prohibit employees from using hand sanitizer as a substitute for hand washing.
  • Assign servers to serve one specific zone / area at all times. No overlapping or crossing over is permitted. This helps with contact tracing in the event customer or worker becomes ill.
  • Post signs in the bathrooms reminding employees to “wash hands” and the proper 20 seconds procedure to do so.
  • Require employee to change street clothes on site and store them in the appropriate changing area.
  • CFPM shall institute a written procedure for effective social distancing and shall monitor social distancing within the establishment, and ensure compliance at all times.
  • Limit contact time, and distance between host /wait staff and guests.
  • CFPM shall ensure there is no “gathering of employees” in the establishment.



Outdoor Dining – Per City of Stamford Code of Ordinances, Outdoor Dining is defined as:

“Any outdoor café, sidewalk café, outdoor eating area, or any outdoor food service accessory to a Food Service Establishment. Per Governor Lamont’s 5/12/20 Executive Order #7MM. outdoor activities shall take place on any nearby lot, zoning lot, street face or yard (contiguous or not) with written permission from the owner of any other lot or zoning lot on which the proposed “outdoor activity” will take place.  This written permission shall be provided to the Local Enforcement Official.  This lot must be in a commercial zone or in a commercial zoning district.”

Sidewalk Café - Per City of Stamford Code of Ordinances:

“Any group of tables, chairs, benches and suitable decorative devices maintained upon any public sidewalk or public land for use in the sale to the public of food, refreshment and beverages.”

Other Links on Returning to Work:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Brookings: How Cities Can Reopen after COVID-19

McKinsey: Implications and Business Restart Considerations

U.S. Chamber on Implementing National Return to Work Concept

OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID 19

10 Steps All Workplaces Can Take to Reduce Risk of Exposure to Coronavirus, OSHA Poster