As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the U.S. economy, restaurateurs and bar owners are feeling the brunt of business closures and adaptations necessary to combat the disease. Where cozy and intimate dining was once de rigueur for the restaurant industry, these businesses must now shift to outdoor dining with adequate space and airflow between parties. In response to these concerns, many cities across the country who once fought against the loss of any parking have turned to a post-automobile tactic: outdoor dining in thoroughfares and parking lots. While at first glance it might seem a simple enough prospect—throw some chairs and a table out front, and voilà—property owners and restaurateurs must remain cognizant of various liability and regulatory hurdles for operating outside.
With Great Space Comes Great … Potential Liability.
One of the largest concerns for landowners in operating in a new space for business is liability. Who is on the hook if someone gets hurt dining in an impromptu dining space in a parking lot? Prior to beginning new outdoor dining operations, landowners and restaurateurs should contact their insurance providers to ensure that the new space is included in their insurance coverage. This is a particular concern for larger commercial landowners who may have various businesses vying to use their parking lot for business. Many leases have carefully crafted clauses limiting where a business may operate and where their liability ceases. Landowners and business owners should review their leases for any such clauses and negotiate with one another to ensure that liability in these new spaces is clearly defined.