Official websites use .gov

A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock () or https:// means you've safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


Restaurant fire and life safety during COVID-19

Posted: Oct. 8, 2020

Restaurants face several challenges during COVID-19 that may involve life safety and fire and building codes.

Restaurants have struggled to stay in business during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that restrictions are slowly lifting and seating capacity increases inside and outside, restaurants face several challenges that may involve life safety and fire and building codes.

Indoor seating

As indoor seating capacity increases in restaurants, some locations are installing plexiglass shields and walls as safety measures. Restaurants are changing table layouts to put more space between patrons, creating what one Philadelphia restaurant owner calls a jigsaw puzzle of tables.

Outdoor dining

Outdoor seating is now a crucial part of many restaurant survival plans but colder Fall temperatures will make outdoor dining more difficult. Many restaurants are extending the season as much as possible with space heaters, tents, igloos and “space bubbles.” Installing these structures can be costly.

Baltimore helped eating establishments meet some of the financial challenges of outdoor dining by waiving fees associated with inspections and permits for tent and heater usage and committing to a 3-day permit processing turnaround. Any financial break benefits these establishments, especially when they're looking at the added costs of tents, heating and plexiglass.

Remind restaurant owners about codes requirements

Many restaurants have worked with inspectors to be sure their plans meet codes, but some may not have. Your jurisdiction should consider contacting restaurant owners to discuss the following:

  • Some restaurants took over parking lot space to create outdoor seating where none existed before. Does this affect staging or access for apparatus?
  • For locations using propane space heaters, where are the propane tanks stored? Does the staff know how to properly handle the units? Are units a safe distance from tent walls or furnishings?
  • If the restaurant is placing heaters in tents (or “space bubbles”), do they vent fumes properly?
  • Do new indoor seating or plexiglass layouts affect egress or block exits or signs?
  • How will plexiglass walls affect fire attack or ventilation?
  • Some cities are closing streets to accommodate outside dining. In some cases these road closures change day-to-day. How will this affect emergency vehicle traffic and response times?

This article is based on content in the
Oct. 8, 2020 InfoGram.

Subscribe to the InfoGram

Explore more articles:

  • Filter:

Featured articles

Current Issues
photo of a man and a woman staring looking at their destroyed home
Current Issues
photo of a woman and man preparing a meal
Current Issues
storm clouds with houses in the foreground
Current Issues
pictograph illustrations
Coffee Break
community members meeting about wildfire projects
Coffee Break
firefighters talking
Current Issues
hoarded items in a home
Coffee Break
firefighters on hose line
Current Issues
child sleeping with mother in background
Current Issues
home boarded up with clear board
Current Issues
fire station
Coffee Break
firefighter using a computer
Coffee Break
binary data with a question mark
Coffee Break
table made up of puzzle pieces
Coffee Break
Coffee Break
helicopter dropping water on a fire
Coffee Break
meeting of public policy makers
Coffee Break
firefighter addressing meeting