Health Dept. reminds restaurants to adhere to COVID protocols

Sep 10, 2020 by

Published September 10, 2020

NORTH READING — Concerned that some of the town’s dozen or so restaurants and food service establishments currently operating under the state’s phased re-opening plan created in response to COVID-19 may be becoming lax in following all of its requirements, Director of Public Health Robert F. Bracey recently issued a “friendly reminder” to all such establishments to maintain these protocols.

“Be advised that the town of North Reading COVID-19 incident rate has increased from 0.8% to 3.5% over the last (few) weeks and most recently the Health Department is working with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) in investigating several town COVID-19 clusters relating to indoor venues,” Bracey stated.

“As a friendly reminder, please adhere to the required ‘Sector Specific Workplace Safety Standards for Restaurants’ and continue to be responsible business owners to do your part in protecting your employees, customers and transient residents who visit your establishments,” he stated.

According to Bracey, it has come to the attention of the town’s Health Department that some food service establishments “may be becoming a little relaxed on adhering to the Massachusetts Reopening Sector-Specific Workplace Safety Standards for Restaurants to address COVID-19.”

Examples cited by Bracey in his memo to all food service establishments currently in operation include the following:

• Food service establishments may not be taking reservations and when seating walk-in customers, restaurants should retain a phone number of someone in the party for possible contact tracing.

• Food service establishments may be allowing customers in their establishment to have several drinks prior to ordering food and allowing customers to socially linger after in-dining eating. Alcoholic beverages may only be served for on-site consumption if accompanied by food prepared on-site.

• Food establishments may not be enforcing the size of a party seated at a table, which cannot exceed six people.

• Restaurants may not seat any customers at the bar or abutting the bar area. Abutting tables to the bar is prohibited.

“During reopening inspections, the Health Department was clear that this was prohibited,” Bracey said about tables in bar areas. “The Health Department did approve high-top table seating if it was existing in the bar areas. Any restaurant which is found to be in noncompliance of this requirement will lose the right to have seats in the bar area.”

• Food establishments may not be properly cleaning and sanitizing tables after each use.

The Health Department also included in the notice a sign which restaurant owners are required to print and post throughout their establishment, which includes posting the maximum seating capacity allowed in the restaurant.

“In working together as a community, we can stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus here in North Reading,” Bracey added. “Be advised that the Health Department will be conducting future unannounced COVID-19  inspections.”

Anyone with questions or concerns is welcome to contact the Health Department via email: bbracey@nothreadingma.gov or by calling 978-357-5242.

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