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Restaurants and other indoor establishments selling food and/or drink

The following is intended as a plain language summary of rules regarding the COVID-19 emergency and does not replace the need to follow all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations.

The guidance below applies to restaurants, catering, food courts, entertainment, cultural, recreation, and hospitality venues.

The Health Department strongly recommends masking in indoor public settings to help reduce transmission and keep Philadelphia at a low risk level. Establishments must follow the minimum restrictions required by the Health Department. Establishments may choose to be more restrictive and require masking indoors. or choose to be vaccination-only.

Indoor dining

Indoor dining at restaurants and other venues is permitted, provided that:

  • All applicable health and safety requirements and guidance are followed, including any current masking and/or vaccination mandates in effect for employees and customers; and
  • All applicable regulatory requirements are met, including but not limited to licensing and permitting requirements.

Businesses must obtain any permits or other authorization, as required, to serve food and beverages outside of physical indoor service areas.

Food courts/airports/shopping malls

If an establishment contains a general seating area provided for customers of several restaurants/food markets (i.e., a food court) where food is consumed, the larger establishment that houses the food court (e.g., a mall) may require masking and that patrons remain seated while eating and/or drinking.

Guidance for COVID-19 mitigation and prevention

  • An indoor establishment that sells food and/or drink for consumption on site may choose to require vaccination or masking for all employees and patrons.

If you are choosing to require masks in your establishment:

  • Create a plan for how you will ensure masking in your establishment.

If you are choosing to be a vaccination-only establishment:

  • Create a plan for how you will check for vaccination in your establishment. (See Proof of Vaccination below).
  • If choosing to be a vaccination-only establishment, it’s best practice to allow unvaccinated patrons/guests including children to briefly (under 15 minutes) enter an establishment to use the restroom or pick up take-out orders. They should remain masked at all times while indoors.

Proof of vaccination

If your establishment is vaccination-only:

  • Determine whether you will check vaccination status upon entry to your restaurant/venue or in advance of entry (i.e., online prior to visit upon reservation), or, if applicable, after invitation responses are received or when a ticket is sold.
  • Ensure that staff and attendees are asked about vaccination in a respectful manner and consistent with applicable privacy laws and standards. Businesses and Institutions must obey all applicable local, state, tribal, and territorial laws, regulations, and rules as they consider whether to confirm COVID-19 vaccination status. Read more about how to check for proof of vaccination (PDF).
  • Asking about vaccination status is not a violation of HIPAA, which ensures a patient’s health information is properly protected. HIPAA applies only to covered entities (healthcare providers, healthcare plans) that conducting certain electronic transactions. Most establishments would not fall into the category of a covered entity as defined under the statute. Read more guidance from the CDC about HIPAA. If you have questions about privacy laws that could potentially be applicable to vaccination verification activities, consult with legal counsel prior to taking such actions.

If staff or attendees were in or near a large crowd–even if masked AND vaccinated:

  • To prevent possible spread to co-workers, loved ones, and those in their community who are vulnerable, staff and attendees should get tested for COVID-19 after having been in or near a crowd.
    • While waiting for results, they should stay away from those who are at high risk of getting severe disease and the elderly.
    • If they test positive, they must isolate. Read more about testing and isolation.
    • If they cannot stay home, they should be sure to wear a well-fitted mask and keep distanced.
    • They should monitor for COVID-19 symptoms like new-onset fever, cough, or shortness of breath for 10 days.


  • Communicate to patrons and staff (including performers, if applicable) in advance if your establishment will be vaccination-only.
  • You can find signs and posters on the Health Department website to help remind patrons to remain masked unless actively eating or drinking while seated.
  • If an employee develops a COVID-19 infection or has a positive test, businesses and other organizations must take additional precautions to stop the virus from spreading further. See What to do if someone tests positive for COVID-19 at work.
  • Businesses are required to allow employees to isolate or quarantine or to care for family members who need to isolate or quarantine and cannot take an adverse employment action against that employee for doing so. Learn more about the City’s employee protection resources.

Read more about how to keep your patrons safe in prevention strategies.

If you have questions or concerns, contact the Health Department by calling 215-685-5488 or emailing

See also

  • Text COVIDPHL to 888-777 to receive updates to your phone.
  • If you have questions, call the Department of Public Health at (215) 685-5488.