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Austin Nonprofit Releases Stricter Restaurant Reopening Guidelines

Good Work Austin’s list includes additional provisions, from adding employee wellness charges to provide paid sick leave to requiring frequent air filter changes in indoor spaces

Grizzelda’s patio, which has reopened for dine-in service
Grizzelda’s patio, which has reopened for dine-in service
Erin Russell is associate editor of Eater Austin, a native Austinite, and a big fan of carbs.

A group of Austin restaurants have vowed to adhere to stricter guidelines for reopening their dining rooms, put together by local small business advocacy nonprofit Good Work Austin (GWA). The guidelines go beyond those suggested by the state of Texas, which reopened restaurant dining rooms in the beginning of May and will allow restaurants to expand indoor seating capacities to 75 starting this Friday, June 12.

GWA formed in 2018, spinning out of a group of businesses working with City Council to write Austin’s paid sick leave ordinance. With about 100 members, it comprises many types of small businesses and includes a significant contingent of restaurants, including those staying closed for now (Olamaie, L’Oca d’Oro), those open for takeout only (Franklin Barbecue, Mother’s Cafe) and those whose dining rooms have reopened (Emmer & Rye, Foreign & Domestic).

The guidelines, compiled from multiple sources including U.S. Foods Restaurant Reopening Blueprint, the Aspen Institute, and the Texas Restaurant Association, contain many of the same recommendations from the state. Those include single-use menus, readily available hand sanitizer, and sending home employees who display symptoms of COVID-19.

However, GWA’s list includes additional provisions such as adding an employee wellness charge to provide paid sick leave and access to health care to workers (if a restaurant does not already have one), requiring that staff and guests wear masks (the statewide order just recommends facial coverings), collecting names of all diners and employees (as recommended by Travis County), and requiring frequent air filter changes for indoor spaces. GWA members will also refuse service to customers who don’t adhere to posted guidelines.

The guidelines also include recommendations surrounding protocols if an employee is exposed to COVID-19, but doesn’t go as far as to demand that they release this information to the public. As Adam Orman, co-founder of L’Oca d’Oro and a member of GWA explained: “We pushed for the guest health declaration,” which dine-in guests will have to sign, “so that if someone should get sick, we’d be able to contact anyone who dined on any of the nights that the infected employee was there. We believe this is a more effective way of keeping the public that need to know (actual guests who were in the restaurant) informed and keeping the restaurant insulated from unnecessary public shaming.” The full reopening agreement is embedded below.

In addition to the reopening guidelines, GWA is working to secure loans, grants, and philanthropy to allow the businesses to pay their bills, bring back jobs, and feed Austin’s communities that are most in need. Other projects have included mental health counseling for restaurant workers via the Mike and Sherry Project and sexual harassment training from the SAFE Alliance.

Small businesses can sign up to be supported by GWA by completing an online questionnaire.

Good Works Austin’s Reopening Agreement

1. Reservation sites and websites will include notices that diners cannot enter the restaurant if they are exhibiting any symptoms of Covid-19. We will deny service to guests who do not follow our clearly stated guidelines

2. Employees will be counseled on appropriate behavior at and away from work by a medical professional to make sure that they are not putting our community at risk.

3. Staff temperatures must be taken daily. Anyone with a 99.6º or higher temperature will be sent home.

4. Staff who have experienced COVID-19 symptoms will be sent home and must fulfill one of the following options: 1) receive a note from a doctor allowing them to return to work; 2) receive a negative result from a COVID-19 test; 3) complete a 14 day self-quarantine.

5. If an employee tests positive for Covid-19, we will thoroughly sanitize our business and require staff who worked with the infected employee anytime in the last 14 days to be tested or quarantined for two weeks.

6. We will include an Employee Wellness Charge to provide our employees with access to health care and paid sick leave.

7. All dine-in guests will provide their names. All dine-in guests and employees will complete a Health Declaration.

8. All staff must wear masks while in the restaurant. Guests must wear masks except when they have food or beverage in front of them.

9. Hand washing will be enforced every 30 minutes for all staff.

10. Staff will have no intentional physical contact and will constantly be aware of the necessity of social distancing.

11. We will dedicate certain employees to service guests and/or divide spaces and redefine roles to further separate employees and guests.

12. Menus will be on display, online, or be sanitized after each use. Single-use menus will be available by request.

13. Hand Sanitation stations will be placed at the entrance & exit of the restaurant and outside the restrooms.

14. We are committed to ensuring proper ventilation of our indoor spaces by cleaning & changing filters more frequently and/or increasing fresh airflow.

15. Adopt all elements of Open Texas Minimum Standard Health Protocols for facility, employees, and guests.