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New Requirements Issued for Counter-Service Restaurants and Pickup Areas in Austin

Austin Public Health says masks will be required through April 15, 2021

Counter seats at a restaurant
Austin Public Health’s updated rules require that counter-service restaurants implement six feet of distance between seats
Nadia Chaudhury is the editor of Eater Austin covering food and pop culture, as well as a photographer, writer, and frequent panel moderator and podcast guest.

Today, Austin residents were treated to a combination of new and updated COVID-related regulations, both from Mayor Steve Adler and Austin Public Health (APH). From the mayor’s office came the updated stay-at-home order, extending the current requirements for face masks and limitations on social gatherings through February 16, 2021. Meanwhile APH’s extended new health authority rules reiterate the same rules, as well as add new guidelines for counter-service restaurants and pickup food and drink areas, through April 15, 2021.

APH’s health authority rules dictate that counter-service restaurants will have to limit groups seated at counters to two people; and counter seats must be separated by six feet, unless there is a group seated together or there are physical barriers separating the seats. If the restaurant’s seating arrangement only consists of the counter, then the maximum number of allowed dine-in customers at the same time is six.

Then, restaurants that are offering in-person takeout services will have to designate a separate area for these pickups that are either six feet away from counter seats and/or tables, or physically separated with a solid barrier. There must be social distancing marks on the floor so people waiting to place orders can easily maintain six feet of distance from each other; these marks will also have to be six feet away from the counter/tables. People waiting to place orders, waiting to be seated, or waiting to pick up orders all have to remain six feet away from each other and guests seated at the counters/tables.

The stay-home orders from the city incorporate new quarantine requirements, whereby for people who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who have been exposed to someone with the virus must quarantine for 10 days after symptoms first appeared or their last moment of interaction, versus the previous standard of 14 days (though there are various caveats).

Earlier today, Interim Medical Director and Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said that there will probably be curfews for restaurants and bars if the city escalates to Stage 5 of its COVID-19 risk-based guidelines, based on an increasing number of cases and hospitalizations