You recognize the New York City health department letter grade in the restaurant window, and maybe even the Michelin seal. Now, you might also want to look for a blue-and-white sticker that says “Safe Eats.”
The sticker represents membership in a new nonprofit organization of the same name, introduced Thursday, that has set standards for what it deems to be the safe operation of restaurants for on-site dining, takeout and delivery during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The effort has started with a small collection of restaurants in New York City. The chef Dan Kluger joined Safe Eats for his restaurant Loring Place in Greenwich Village, where he has been selling takeout meals and has tables outdoors. He considers it to be a “response to often confusing directions from government agencies.”
That is the main draw for restaurants: In the absence of consistent, up-to-date government standards for safe restaurant operation during the pandemic, Safe Eats provides a list of safety measures to follow. It is also meant to reassure diners that the member restaurants have made a commitment to follow those rules.
Safe Eats was started by Carlos Suarez, who owns a group of Greenwich Village restaurants, including Rosemary’s and Claudette; and Yann de Rochefort, the founder of the Boqueria chain in New York and other cities. Also among the founders and participants in management is Zero Hour Health, a company that provides health and health-crisis management to restaurants, partly through its app, Zedic.
The organizers of Safe Eats said that they reached out to the office of Mayor Bill de Blasio for input, but that the office showed no interest in getting involved. The health department has its own list of guidelines that restaurants can consult. “As the city continues to reopen, we’re committed to helping our restaurants safely adapt to the changing circumstances,” said Avery Cohen, a spokeswoman for Mr. de Blasio.
Roslyn Stone, the chief operating officer of Zero Hour Health, said the rules are changing all the time. “No two days are the same,” she said. “How can you keep up with it?”
Mr. Suarez said that he and Mr. de Rochefort were “spending so much time trying to stay on top of all the latest Covid guidelines,” citing more than a dozen agencies they had to monitor. “What if there was a single source for safety guidelines that we could rely on? How great would that be for us.”
In addition to providing the guidelines culled from government agencies that member restaurants must agree to follow, Safe Eats also relies on the expertise of Zero Hour Health and other restaurant consultants.
Safe Eats gives advice for operating during and after the pandemic, offers training, guidance on monitoring employee health and daily updates on regulations changes — and gives restaurants the window decal.
Restaurants, which pay $69 a month to join, must agree to comply with the protocols. As of now, the organization does not inspect restaurants for such compliance, though Mr. Suarez said that it intends to at some point. Currently, diners just have to trust that participating restaurants are actually complying with the regulations. “We’re keen to start certification, but we don’t know when,” Mr. Suarez said.
Member restaurants also display a poster that lists the rules the restaurant has pledged to follow and includes email contact for consumers to provide feedback. ”The channel for complaints by consumers or staff is there,” Mr. Suarez said. “It’s not perfect, but a great first step.”
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated August 6, 2020
Why are bars linked to outbreaks?
- Think about a bar. Alcohol is flowing. It can be loud, but it’s definitely intimate, and you often need to lean in close to hear your friend. And strangers have way, way fewer reservations about coming up to people in a bar. That’s sort of the point of a bar. Feeling good and close to strangers. It’s no surprise, then, that bars have been linked to outbreaks in several states. Louisiana health officials have tied at least 100 coronavirus cases to bars in the Tigerland nightlife district in Baton Rouge. Minnesota has traced 328 recent cases to bars across the state. In Idaho, health officials shut down bars in Ada County after reporting clusters of infections among young adults who had visited several bars in downtown Boise. Governors in California, Texas and Arizona, where coronavirus cases are soaring, have ordered hundreds of newly reopened bars to shut down. Less than two weeks after Colorado’s bars reopened at limited capacity, Gov. Jared Polis ordered them to close.
I have antibodies. Am I now immune?
- As of right now, that seems likely, for at least several months. There have been frightening accounts of people suffering what seems to be a second bout of Covid-19. But experts say these patients may have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after initial exposure. People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. It may be possible to get the coronavirus again, but it’s highly unlikely that it would be possible in a short window of time from initial infection or make people sicker the second time.
I’m a small-business owner. Can I get relief?
- The stimulus bills enacted in March offer help for the millions of American small businesses. Those eligible for aid are businesses and nonprofit organizations with fewer than 500 workers, including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and freelancers. Some larger companies in some industries are also eligible. The help being offered, which is being managed by the Small Business Administration, includes the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. But lots of folks have not yet seen payouts. Even those who have received help are confused: The rules are draconian, and some are stuck sitting on money they don’t know how to use. Many small-business owners are getting less than they expected or not hearing anything at all.
What are my rights if I am worried about going back to work?
What is school going to look like in September?
- It is unlikely that many schools will return to a normal schedule this fall, requiring the grind of online learning, makeshift child care and stunted workdays to continue. California’s two largest public school districts — Los Angeles and San Diego — said on July 13, that instruction will be remote-only in the fall, citing concerns that surging coronavirus infections in their areas pose too dire a risk for students and teachers. Together, the two districts enroll some 825,000 students. They are the largest in the country so far to abandon plans for even a partial physical return to classrooms when they reopen in August. For other districts, the solution won’t be an all-or-nothing approach. Many systems, including the nation’s largest, New York City, are devising hybrid plans that involve spending some days in classrooms and other days online. There’s no national policy on this yet, so check with your municipal school system regularly to see what is happening in your community.
For now the rules published by Safe Eats only apply to New York City restaurants; those in other areas can join without knowing the details that apply to their communities. Safe Eats hopes to expand into other cities in the United States and abroad. In addition to the founders’ restaurants and Loring Place, members include Reverence in Harlem and Delicious Hospitality’s Charlie Bird, Legacy Records and Pasquale Jones. Safe Eats has also been endorsed by the New York Hospitality Alliance and the James Beard Foundation.
Other organizations, including trade groups like the National Restaurant Association and the California Restaurant Association, have also published guidance for safely operating during the health crisis, but they do not require compliance or charge restaurants to be certified. (The National Restaurant Association has had a restaurant management certification course with a fee, but that has existed for many years and was not designed for the pandemic.)