A Guide To Phase 2 Outdoor Dining: Rules, Etiquette & Advice From An Epidemiologist

Posted: Jun 23, 2020

We're now in Phase 2 of our reopening in NYC, and with current testing showing the infection rate holding at 1.5%, we can now dine and drink outdoors, with certain restrictions. While we've already seen this kind of activity over the past couple of weeks, Phase 2 will bring even more establishments back, officially. As of Monday morning, there have been 3,192 applicants for additional Phase 2 outdoor space, according to the Mayor's Office and city's Department of Transportation.

So, what's the plan to make this transition a safe one? At his Monday morning press briefing, Mayor de Blasio said there wasn't a specific plan for enforcing outdoor dining rules, but if someone sees a potentially dangerous scene they should call 311. (It's worth noting the mayor also said dog runs could not reopen yet because it would be unsafe to "have a lot of people congregating in a small [outdoor] space." It's unclear how a dog run is all that different from a small outdoor dining space.)

So in the absence of vigilant enforcement from the city, and no requirement for patrons to wear a mask while seated, it's up to New Yorkers to drink and dine responsibly. With that in mind, here's a guide on how to eat out safely. Or at least safer.


On paper, the plan is to have tables outdoors and spaced six feet apart. In practice, that may not happen everywhere — some bars and restaurants are still working with the DOT to gain access to outdoor space for a socially distanced set-up, like parking spaces and open streets. However, de Blasio said this may not be ironed out until July, so until then, some places will be winging it with whatever sidewalk space they have.


You play an important role in how this pandemic plays out. If you decide to dine out or drink at an outdoor bar, please do so in a way that will help keep safe not only you and your friends, but the people near you, and the waitstaff.

  • Wear a mask, even when seated, when you aren't drinking or eating, and especially when ordering from waitstaff.
  • Be aware of how much space is next to you and the next party.
  • Practice hand hygiene: wash your hands, or use hand sanitizer or wipes.
  • If you're having many drinks, you might start to feel safe and like we're not living in a world where a highly contagious virus is still spreading — try to not forget that we're in a pandemic. Maybe write it on your arm with a Sharpie?
  • Tip well! The essential workers serving you are putting their own health at risk for a paycheck, and so that you can have a sense of normalcy. So in addition to keep their health in mind, tip more than you would have pre-pandemic.


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