TORONTO -- The City of Toronto has released guidelines for restaurants that provide the clearest picture so far of how dining will look once the province allows establishments to reopen for dine-in service.

The guidelines include a slew of recommendations from Toronto Public Health about how restaurants can prepare to reopen when they are allowed to do so.

“We want people to be able to get ready. That’s why we’re providing public health advice now, ahead of the lifting of provincial restrictions,” Mayor John Tory said Friday.

He stressed restaurants will not be able to reopen until the province gives the go-ahead.

“You can’t as yet get a haircut, or get your nails done, or sit down for a meal at a restaurant, not yet,” Tory said. “But your local restaurant and your hairstylist can review these guidelines to make sure they’re ready to be opened when the time comes and to understand what the requirements are that public health and the city will be asking of them once they are once again open for business.”

Those recommendations include many regular food safety procedures, such as sanitizing surfaces, ensuring proper handwashing stations are available and checking for pests.

However the guidelines also list a raft of measures specific to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even when restaurants reopen, the document says, staff and customers should still maintain six feet (two metres) of distance at all times.

Seating and tables need to be rearranged so that there is at least six feet of distance from edge to edge and no more than six customers should be seated at each table. As well, food establishments will not be allowed to have more than 50 per cent of their rated capacity.

Toronto Public Health is advising that restaurants consider welcoming customers by reservation only.

Operators will be required to keep logs, including name and contact information, for all customers and staff, along with check-in times. In the event that someone is found to have COVID-19 and has been at the establishment, public health will use the list to reach out to anyone who may possibly have been infected.

Other measures include:

  • Removing waiting areas and clearly marking spaces for physical distancing where any lineups may occur
  • Rearranging kitchen space so that proper distance is maintained at all times and enforcing mask wearing where that is not possible
  • If necessary, install plexiglass barriers in some areas
  • Buffet and self-serve areas should be removed
  • Providing guidance to customers, including arrows showing how to enter and exit, and explaining any policies that affect them.
  • The use of non-medical masks or face coverings in all indoor public spaces is strongly encouraged
  • Operators can require customers to wear masks, except when eating.
  • Utensils should be rolled or pre-packaged rather than set out
  • Table items, such as ketchup and salt should be sanitized between uses or replaced with single-serve versions
  • People showing signs of COVID-19 should not be admitted
  • Customers must be seated (no service to standing customers, such as at bars)
  • Live music is prohibited

It will be up to the owners and operators of establishments to make sure that the requirements are met.

Aside from new establishments, restaurants will not have to undergo inspections before reopening.

TPH also issued a reminder that the virus has been found to survive on plastic and stainless steel surfaces for up to 72 hours (three days).

In addition, TPH is reminding restaurant staff to wash hands often, cough or sneeze into your elbow, wear a face mask when in an enclosed setting and to stay home when sick.

Tory said the city will be working with businesses to help them understand the guidelines. He added that business owners/ operators can also reach out to Toronto Public Health’s hotline (416-338-7600) for help understanding the measures.