Pandemic restrictions have eased, and restaurants, nightclubs and bars are welcoming patrons back inside. At the same time, new COVID mutations, such as the Delta variant, are worrisome, and the nation’s mask policies for the unvaccinated are honor-based. Restaurant and bar owners need to protect themselves from COVID-related risks.
The scale of risk mitigation required across the sector is sizeable. Statista reports that the restaurant industry employs 11.26 million individuals, and that bar and nightclub personnel fill nearly 332,000 jobs.
Despite those numbers, most restaurants and bars are small businesses. The National Restaurant Association reports that nine in 10 restaurants have fewer than 50 employees and seven in 10 are not part of a chain.
The costs associated with risk mitigation are no small matter for the sector in a world where the pandemic is not yet over. Restauranteurs and nightclub and bar owners can look to guidelines from the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to help them reduce COVID risks at their establishments.
While the CDC says a “food service limited to drive-through, delivery, take-out and curb-side” represents the lowest COVID risk as it relates to the industry, that captures only a sliver of the business that restaurants and bars do. In-door service creates more risk the more closely customers are seated, especially if less than six feet apart.
Preventive steps for every restaurant, nightclub and bar
The CDC offers restaurant and bar owners advice to lower the risks associated with COVID should an infected person unwittingly spread the virus at their establishment:
· Encourage employees to stay home when sick.
· Emphasize frequent handwashing and require that personnel wear masks.
· Frequently clean and disinfect surfaces, especially the tables, bars and restrooms that patrons use.
· Encourage patrons who are not vaccinated to wear masks. Signage on the entrance door can set the tone, asking people who have not been vaccinated to put on masks.
· Ensure there is adequate ventilation supported by well-maintained systems, as well as appropriate airflow, drawing outside air in when possible.
· Make sure water systems and fixtures are disinfected and safe.
· Consider floorplan and procedural modifications to aid social distancing—preferably maintaining at least six feet of space between customer groups. That also may require seating capacity reduction.
· Consider ways to avoid crowded waiting areas during peak service times.
States, local municipalities and other local governing bodies may have other operational requirements that eating and drinking establishments must follow.
Insuring against unknown or unavoidable risks
Irrespective of the preventive steps restaurants and bars take, situations may arise, COVID-related or not. That is why these businesses do and should buy insurance.
Depending on the nature of the restaurant or bar, policy coverage should address:
· General liability in the event someone slips and falls or has some other mishap at the restaurant.
· Liquor liability in the event a patron does something wrong after drinking at the establishment.
· Property loss in case of a fire (building and/or contents, dependent on who owns the building).
· Business income replacement.
· Spoilage in the event of a power outage or other cause.
· Worker’s compensation.
Many restaurants and bars also have a company vehicle that must be covered, including property damage, liability and medical.
The amount of coverage required for the insured risks will vary, depending on the nature and scale of the business. If you own a restaurant, nightclub or bar, your local Trusted Choice Independent Insurance Agent® can guide you in your coverage choices to be sure you are adequately protected—but not over insured. Oftentimes, liability coverage, whether it is for general liability or liquor liability, might prudently require $1 million coverage or more for each.
Furthermore, if we learned nothing else in 2020, it’s that worker’s compensation is an area where your restaurant, nightclub or bar should not scrimp. If injured while working at your establishment, your employee is entitled to compensation to cover related costs. If your employee contracts COVID-19 at work, there also is the possibility of a claim. That is less clear because the issue is still evolving, but as a business owner, you must have this in mind.
If you have not reviewed your coverages with The Della Porta Group, Inc. a Trusted Choice agent , since you reopened your doors, do so now. When you’re confident that you have the right coverages in place to protect your business, you can focus on what you do best—operating an establishment where people enjoy dining and drinking.