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Food businesses

Information for grocery stores, restaurants and other food premises for employers and workers.

Last updated: January 18, 2022

Province-wide restrictions are in effect. Learn more.

Prevention measures for all food businesses

Employers should have COVID-19 safety plans in place. COVID-19 safety plans should address worker illness policy, hand hygiene, vaccine promotion and other elements. 

Review WorkSafeBC guidance. More information can be found on the Employers & Businesses page.

An order from the Provincial Health Officer requires employers to re-activate their COVID-19 Safety Plans.

This replaces the previous requirement for employers to have communicable disease prevention plans in their workplaces. While communicable disease prevention plans and COVID-19 Safety Plans share some of the same fundamental principles, COVID-19 Safety Plans are formal, written plans with more rigorous controls and are more appropriate for periods of elevated risk, such as the one currently faced by B.C. workplaces by the Omicron variant. 

Learn about COVID-19 Safety Plans from WorkSafeBC

Restaurants, cafes and pubs must scan proof of vaccination QR codes for entry. Proof of vaccination is not be required for patrons under 12 years of age, or at takeout/quick food service establishments without table service that do not sell liquor for consumption on the premises.


Customers are required to provide their BC Vaccine Card to enter licensed restaurants and food premises offering table service.


Detailed information can be found in the PHO Orders:

Businesses can find information on proof of vaccination requirements at: gov.bc.ca/VaccineCard-Businesses


Getting immunized against COVID-19 by getting two doses of the vaccine is the most effective way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. 

All food premises and businesses are required to have a Sanitation Plan under section 24 of the Food Premises Regulation  Routine cleaning and normal sanitation practices should be implemented.

Document and follow cleaning practices that will reduce risks of communicable disease and food-borne illness. This may include more frequent cleaning of high touch surfaces, such as POS systems, bulk bin handles, garbage can lids, elevator buttons, high touch surfaces on bottled water filling machine, etc..

All operators are expected to update and maintain their sanitation plans.

For further information about surface (fomite) transmission risk, please see this evidence review from NCCEH: Fomites and the COVID-19 pandemic: An evidence review on its role in viral transmission
 
  • Employees should practice good hand hygiene including frequent hand washing, as well as coughing or sneezing into your elbow rather than hands.
  • Provision of alcohol-based hand rubs in food premises for patrons is recommended.
  • Ensure washrooms are stocked with liquid soap and paper towels at all times, and that warm running water is available.
  • Wearing a mask is required in all indoor public spaces for people age 5 and up (born in 2017 or earlier) regardless of vaccination status including in coffee shops, restaurants, public and bars when not seated at a tale.

    • Masks may be removed temporarily for identifying the individual wearing the mask or while eating or drinking at a designated location.
  • Masks are optional for children aged 2-4 and children under 2 should not wear masks.
  • Find the PHO Order on Face Coverings.

  • Provide hand washing or hand sanitizing near the station,
  • Post signs about hand hygiene and physical distancing measures, and
  • Implement a frequent cleaning and sanitizing of the station and utensils used at the station.

‎COVID-19 transmission from handling reusable containers such as grocery bags, coffee mugs, dollar bills, coins, bulk bins and other reusable items HAS NOT BEEN DOCUMENTED. There are transmissions linked to touching shared surfaces, such as elevator buttons or lids of garbage cans.


Because the risk is low, premises may go back to normal activities as long as practices known to reduce overall risk are maintained.

 

Permitted activities include:

  • accept and fill reusable coffee mugs and water bottles,
  • allow reusable containers for take-away per provincial policy (must be described in food premises food safety or sanitation plan)
  • allow reusable grocery bags,
  • pack grocery bags for customers requiring assistance,
  • allow customer self-serve of bakery items, beverages, utensils and other items,
  • accept cash in the form of bills and coins, 
  • accept returnable cans and bottles for deposit, and
  • put menus, salt and pepper shakers, ketchup bottles etc. back onto the table, and ensure cleaning occurs regularly.

Practices recommended include:

  • cleaning of highly touched surfaces per the sanitation plan,
  • frequent hand-washing,
  • providing hand hygiene for customers,
  • maintain physical distancing  or use of barriers, and
  • improving ventilation for customers and workers.

These measures should be documented in sanitation and communicable disease plans.

 

For further information about surface (fomite) transmission risk, please see this evidence review from NCCEH: Fomites and the COVID-19 pandemic: An evidence review on its role in viral transmission

Retail grocery stores should consult the Worksafe BC protocols for retail operation and follow the PHO orders for retail businesses under section L of the Gathering and Events order.

  • Follow physical distancing requirements as described below on this page that limit capacity (five square metres of space for patrons and staff); document this number in the COVID-19 safety plan and ensure these numbers are not exceeded,
  • In premises with less than five square meters of space, a maximum of one patron may enter and this number must be documented in the COVID-19 safety plan,
  • Persons that cannot be safely accommodated, if advised by the owner or staff, must not enter and should leave if requested,
  • Where practical provide signs and barriers to allow two metre distance between customers and to avoid congregation of patrons,
  • Provide hand sanitation.

Restaurants and food-serving premises

Restaurants, cafes, and pubs serving food and/or alcohol are open with some restrictions. 

Reminder: Operators are advised to keep some safety measures in place if they do not interfere with operations. For example, the use of barriers in restaurants and food premises between customers or customers and staff is also advised.

Indoor and outdoor dining is allowed with physical distancing requirements and other rules, including:
  • A maximum of 6 people at a table
  • Physical distancing or barriers between tables
  • Customers must remain seated and cannot move between or visit other tables
  • No dancing
  • Normal liquor service hours
  • Masks are required when not seated at a table

Owners and operators should also review the PHO Order on Food and liquor serving premises

  • Indoor organized gatherings of any size are not allowed. This includes gatherings like wedding receptions, sponsored or ticketed parties or other celebrations
  • Bars, nightclubs and lounges that do not serve meals are closed.

Owners and operators should also review the PHO Order on Gatherings and Events and PHO Order on Food and liquor serving premises

Performers:

  • Physical distancing is recommended, otherwise restrictions on performances are removed.

Patrons:

  • Patrons must remain seated, 
  • Socializing between tables is not permitted, and 
  • Dancing is not permitted.
Suitable barriers may be used in areas where a 2 metre physical distancing cannot be used. Suitable should be rigid, impermeable, cleanable and be able to protect seated and standing persons from the transmission of droplets from other persons. More information about suitable barriers can be found in the WorkSafe document COVID-19 health and safety Designing effective barriers.

Barriers may be used in place of 2 metre physical distancing and are also useful at check-outs and any areas where the spread of COVID-19 respiratory droplets may occur. Barriers should be in place between customers unless they are in the same party.


Related information and guidance

SOURCE: Food businesses ( )
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