Visiting a restaurant or bar
The COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful and isolating for many people. Many go to restaurants and bars to enjoy a meal without having to cook, to connect with friends and family, and to support businesses that are an important part of many communities.
However, visiting bars and restaurants can increase you risk of getting and spreading COVID-19.
Why Visiting Restaurants and Bars May Increase Risk
In a recent study, scientists found that adults with positive COVID-19 test results were twice as likely to have reported dining at a restaurant than those with negative COVID-19 test results.1 There are many factors that may explain why going to restaurants and bars increases your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19:
Wear masks when less than 6 feet apart from other people or indoors
- People from different households are gathering in the same space.
- Eating and drinking requires the removal of a mask.
- If eating indoors, ventilation flow in restaurants and bars can cause droplets to spread at distances greater than 6 feet.2 Poor ventilation can also increase risk as it may cause the virus to accumulate in the air.
- Physical distancing of at least 6 feet is often difficult to maintain in restaurants and bars.
- People need to talk louder in restaurants and bars to hear one another. This can contribute to the production of more virus aerosols.
- Use of alcohol may alter judgment and make it more difficult for people to practice COVID-19 safety measures.
While the safest way to enjoy and support restaurants and bars is to take out food and eat it at home with people who live with you, there are ways that you can go to a restaurant and bar and still reduce your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19.
Check the restaurant’s or bar’s COVID-19 prevention practices before you go
- Check if outdoor seating is available and if options allow groups to be at least 6 feet apart from one another. If a tent is set-up outdoors, make sure that at least one side is open or rolled up. An enclosed tent is like eating indoors.
- Avoid busy times of day or night. It’s safest to visit when fewer people are at the restaurant or bar.
- Check the restaurant or bar’s website and social media to see if you feel comfortable with their COVID-19 safety guidelines. Guidelines should require both staff and patrons to wear masks while not eating or drinking. Check if menus are available online or via app for safer ordering. Call if the posted information is unclear or if you have questions.
- Find out if valet parking is required or if you can self-park. If valet is the only option, it’s best to leave your windows open and let your car air out for at least 15 minutes after the valet returns your car to you.
Take steps to protect yourself at the restaurant or bar
- Eat outdoors, if possible. You are less likely to get or spread COVID-19 during outdoor activities. Look for seating options that are outside and have proper ventilation of outdoor air, such as tents that have open doors or rolled up sides.
- Wear masks at all times, both indoors and outdoors, except when you are actively eating or drinking. Masks help protect both you and those around you.
- Avoid crowds and sit at tables spaced at least 6 feet apart from people you don’t live with, both indoors and outdoors. If you are standing, stay at least 6 feet apart from those who do not live with you.
- Limit alcohol consumption. Consuming alcohol may make you less likely to follow COVID-19 safety measures.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before eating and when exiting the restaurant or bar. If soap and water are not readily available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Ask for individual condiment and salt and pepper packets, as the condiments on the table may not be cleaned between patrons.
- Minimize the time you spend in the restaurant or bar. The longer you stay, the more you increase your risk
1 Fisher KA, Tenforde MW, Feldstein LR, et al. Community and Close Contact Exposures Associated with COVID-19 Among Symptomatic Adults ≥18 Years in 11 Outpatient Health Care Facilities — United States, July 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1258–1264. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6936a5external icon.
2 Kwon K-S, Park J-I, Park YJ, et al. Evidence of Long-Distance Droplet Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 by Direct Air Flow in a Restaurant in Korea. J Korean Med Sci 2020;35(46):e415. https://doi.org/10.3346/jkms.2020.35.e415external icon.