On June 10, 2020, Maryland’s Department of Health issued an order pertaining to foodservice establishments, including hotel foodservice operations. Governor Hogan followed the June 10th order with one issued on August 3, 2020 that requires face coverings to be worn by anyone over the age of five (5) years old when indoors at any hotel foodservice location and outdoors when unable to maintain six (6) feet of distance from those whom are not members of their household. It is important to check local government orders and guidelines for COVID-19 pertaining to hotel operations.
The orders permit hotel foodservice operations to:
- serve food and beverages to be consumed by customers in seating areas located outdoors;
- sell food and beverages that are taken off the premises (such as carry-out or drive-through);
- deliver food and beverages to customers off the premises; and
- serve food and beverages to be consumed by customers indoors.
Hotel foodservice operations must:
- require all staff to wear face coverings;
- not permit the number of persons within the foodservice establishment to exceed 50% of the establishment’s maximum occupancy;
- not serve food in a buffet format;
- not serve customers who are not seated;
- clean and disinfect each table between each seating in accordance with CDC and MDH guidelines, using cleaning products that meet the EPA’s criteria for use against COVID-19*; and
- require anyone over the age of five (5) years old to wear face coverings when indoors as well as outdoors, when unable to maintain six (6) feet of distance from those whom are not members of their household. Masks may be removed when eating and drinking.
- In Baltimore City, effective August 7, 2020, Mayor Young issued an order limiting capacity to 25% of a facility’s maximum occupancy and ordered that all kitchens close at 10:00 p.m. Also, Customers may not consume beverages if they are not also eating.
With respect to the order as it pertains to 50% maximum occupancy, or 25% in Baltimore City, all areas of hotels where food and drinks are served to guests and other visitors, maximum occupancy is set forth in the certificate of occupancy issued by the county government (or City of Baltimore) where the establishment is located.
Currently, there is no capacity restriction for outdoor gatherings, such as ceremonies and receptions unless held at a venue or facility that is subject to specific orders, for example a hotel pool. It is still wise to follow current CDC, MDH and local government recommendations regarding social distancing and avoiding crowded areas and large gatherings. There is an exception in Baltimore City effective August 7, 2020 that limits gatherings to the lesser of 25 person or 25% of the facility’s maximum capacity.
As of June 12, 2020 MDH has prohibited all convention events until further notice. It is advisable that hotels follow CDC, MDH and local government recommendations in considering the use of meeting spaces by large groups.
*The CDC has reviewed a set of national, industry-wide, enhanced health and safety protocols designed to provide a safe and clean environment for all hotel guests and employees known as Safe Stay guidelines. The American Hotel and Lodging Association has announced the “Safe Stay Guest Checklist,” a list for guests on how to travel safely, including the required use of face coverings in all indoor public spaces. The Safe Stay Guest Checklist includes:
- Require face coverings in all indoor public spaces and practice of social distancing in all common areas at the hotel.
- Choose contactless options, where available, including online reservations, check-ins, and payments.
- Consider daily room cleaning, only if necessary. Ask the hotel about your options.
- Request contactless room service delivery.
- Refrain from traveling if you have, or recently had, any symptoms of COVID-19 or contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19.
- Ferguson, Schetelich & Ballew maintains an active legal practice assisting owners and managers of hotels and hospitality properties throughout Maryland and is available to assist with questions concerning any hospitality-related matters.