Reopening Checklist

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Reopening your brewery amid a health crisis presents a set of challenges new to nearly every business owner. Prior to opening, regulators will want assurances that you understand and have considered potential problem areas, have adapted your service model to safeguard customer and employee health, and have implemented practices that mitigate viral exposure. An effective plan will communicate how your business is minimizing risk and should instill confidence in your customers and staff. With that in mind, it is critical to thoroughly prepare for a public opening prior to allowing patrons back into your brewery.

Creating standard operating procedures and best practices will allow you and your staff to control as many variables as possible. Some of the guidelines in this document will be applicable to most establishments. Likewise, there are considerations that will need to be assessed and managed regarding the specifics of your business model, floor plan, staffing resources, and available supplies. While it will be important to keep your customers informed of new policies, requirements, and changes at your brewery, you cannot rely on them alone to uphold the necessary standards. Your business should lead the charge by constructing and executing a comprehensive plan.

First Steps

  • Review CDC and OSHA federal guidance and implement procedures to safeguard employees and customers.
  • CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses CDC Guidance for Retail Food Workers OSHA Workplace Guidance
  • OSHA Manufacturing Guidance (for beer production employees)
  • OSHA Retail Guidance (for retail taproom and brewpub service employees)

Review federal, state, and local capacity and distancing requirements, group meeting limitations, and any restaurant- or bar-specific rules requiring your compliance.

  • Federal Guide: Opening Up America Again
  • National Restaurant Association’s COVID-19 Information and Resources by State
    • Scroll to “How can I find out what my state, county or city is requiring of restaurants operating in this period?”

Inspect and inventory personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitizers, and other health/safety needs.

  • Order now to fill any gaps and ensure ample stock for reopening.
  • Review appropriate taproom sanitizers before ordering.
  • Review information on food/beverage service and coronavirus.

Restart your draught system.

  • Best Practices in Preparation for Reopening After Extended Draught System Shutdown

Consider any preventive maintenance that may have been overlooked during the period of shutdown or reduced brewery operations.

  • Examples include refilling floor, sink, and equipment drain traps, fire suppression, pressure release valves, etc.


Implement guidelines for staff safety, distancing, and PPE usage.

  • Employers must post the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) notice for their employees. See related FAQs regarding this poster.
  • Train staff to correctly wear, maintain, and dispose of appropriate PPE, namely disposable gloves and a face covering over the nose and mouth.
  • Consider high-traffic/shared areas. Can these areas be managed, cleaned regularly, and limited in use?
  • Will you measure and record staff temperatures before their shifts? Send someone home due to a cough? Encourage open communication about mental and physical health? Have a policy and SOPs for these items and be consistent.

Host training sessions on all updated standard operating procedures (SOPs) and policies BEFORE reopening.

  • Openly communicate new floor plans, menus and notes, schedules and shift policies, sanitization and documentation procedures, curbside/to go and gift card programs, tipping and schedule changes, and staff hygiene and uniform standards. Have a sign-in sheet to verify employees have been informed and trained on these procedures.
  • How are you holding employees accountable for maintaining these SOPs?
  • How are you tracking the daily maintenance and completion of these crucial procedures? Written logs? Scheduled checks? Individual assignments?
  • Communicate via email/video/phone frequently. Give your staff a way to communicate their concerns, ideas, and feedback regarding these policies and procedures.
  • Openly communicate sick leave policy and health of staff coming in for shifts.
  • Identify hard-to-cover positions and implement cross-training to prepare for possible sick leave, outages, and coverage issues.
  • Create talking points and COVID-cautious FAQs for your operation for all staff answering phones. Practice questions and discuss when to involve a manager or owner.
  • Refer to Serv-Safe for staff training and service recommendations.

Handwashing and Personal Sanitization

Post handwashing signs near all sinks.

  • The CDC has easy-to-print signs available, as does ServSafe.

Make hand sanitizer available in public spaces.

  • Make sanitizer available to customers and staff. Install more dispensers as needed.
  • Proper handwashing with soap and water is more effective than hand sanitizer according to CDC guidance.
  • Staff should be encouraged to wash hands rather than sanitize whenever possible.
  • The TTB has posted guidance on larger scale manufacturing of hand sanitizer.

Create SOPs for staff handwashing and sanitizing.

  • Ensure that you maintain an ample supply of sanitizing products. Getting behind on orders/supplies could mean more downtime for your business.
  • Train staff on location and restocking for handwashing stations, sanitizer, etc. Make this critical process visible and convenient.
  • Times to consider requiring handwashing:
    • Before handling and running food and drink.
    • After bussing a table.
    • Before pouring beer.
    • After handling cash or credit cards.
    • Between interacting with different parties.
  • Establish handwashing procedures for all staff.

Capacity and Group Restrictions

Update your visitor capacity based on local, state, and federal guidance.

  • Create customer policies aligned with guidelines that you can cite and enforce.
  • What if you can only have 10 people in at a time? 10 people per room? Groups smaller than 10 but up to 50 people? How do you turn away patrons when you are at capacity?
  • Create an SOP for head counts. Do you have door staff? Does your manager take a head count hourly?
  • Know how many people in an individual party you are legally and otherwise prepared to handle, while still promoting social distancing.
  • Dialogue with your staff so they feel comfortable and are equipped to handle guests who are not adhering to your guidelines.

Communicate your new policies/procedures with customers before they come in.

  • Make sure any new policies are listed on your website and promoted through social media, especially those relating to limited service, group size, or visiting hours.
  • Include new capacity and group-size restrictions.
  • Adjust signage prior to reopening: We are open, front door sign with sanitizing policies and COVID-cautious approach, waitlist policy, bar area policy, and restroom signage.
  • Brewers Association Crisis Communication Template.
  • Have signage outside of your brewery to limit crowds and announce new policies and social distancing guidelines.
  • Signage should include things like handwashing signs for patrons in public restrooms.


Create SOPs for heightened and frequent taproom/public space cleaning.

  • Do not forget bathrooms! You will need to thoroughly clean more than once a day. Do you provide wipes for folks to sanitize door handles and faucets after each use? Lock and provide keys for use to ensure proper cleaning between each use? Install additional touch-free soap and paper towel dispensers?
  • Include ALL necessary details, specific/approved cleaning materials, timing, etc.
    • See Brewers Association’s Guide to Sanitizer Recommendations During COVID-19 Virus Concerns.
    • Address all frequent touchpoints including wait area benches, walls, tables, chairs, barstools, salt and pepper shakers, coasters, condiments, coat hooks, restrooms, doors including front door, restroom door, staff doors to office, kitchen, and breakroom.
      • Sample List of High Touch Items.
    • What is your cleaning schedule and who is responsible for completing cleaning tasks? Who is ensuring completion of these tasks?
    • Create a log that employees must sign to verify cleaning is being done at the specified intervals.
  • Periods of inactivity can cause sewer lines to dry out, introducing the potential for odors and allowing contaminated air into the building. Pour a gallon of water down every drain every two weeks to keep sewer traps operational.
  • CDC Recommendations for Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility. EPA Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2.


Create SOPs for staff for greeting/seating patrons.

  • Do they seat themselves? Wait to be seated? Different policies for bar and table seating? How do you enforce social distancing with seating arrangements, both at tables and the bar?
  • What if your staff is helping a different customer? Verbal greeting? Signage at the door?
  • Do you need to limit group sizes or only allow a set number of people in a single group? If local, state, or federal guidelines recommend groups of 10 or fewer, your reservation policy should match. Be prepared to handle this on the fly with groups who are unaware of the policy.

Enforce social distancing with taproom, bar, and brewpub layout.

  • Set all tables AND chairs at least 6 feet apart from other tables or groups.
  • Mark appropriate bar and open space seating/standing distances.
  • Use digital menus (accessible online), create a large poster-sized menu, make signs, verbally discuss beer, or offer one-time-use menus.
  • For bar service, clearly demarcate where patrons order and ensure social distancing from other patrons. Tape off and hang “order here” signs to ensure social distancing and reduce confusion.
  • Implement measures to direct customer and staff flow within public spaces. Are there any bottlenecks? Areas that promote congregation? Can you tape or mark appropriate waiting areas and staff-only areas to direct flow? Don’t forget about bathroom and bar waiting lines, as well as any small but high-traffic areas.

Review all public areas for spaces that will make it difficult to promote and monitor social distancing. Close or restrict areas and reduce access to items as necessary.

  • Consider these areas:
    • Outside smoking sections. Large/open spaced rooms. Side or back rooms.
    • Game or lounge areas.
    • Music or entertainment spaces.
  • Does your patio have several access points? Can you close all but one in order to control the flow of traffic and number of people in that space?
  • Remove games and other shared entertainment items that cannot be sanitized.

Review and update SOPs for beer service.

  • Wash hands between any other tasks and pouring beer? Wear gloves? Interact with other guests while pouring? Assign pouring/handling duties to particular staff members?
  • Whatever procedures you settle on, proper pouring hygiene, faucet hygiene, and growler cleaning will be critical for the health and safety of your customers.
  • Pages 57-60 of the Draught Beer Quality Manual provide guidance on these practices. (i.e. No contact between faucet nozzle and glass, no submerging of faucet nozzle in the customer’s beer, growler exchange programs, etc.)

Create SOPs for handling transactions.

  • Do you start a tab? Do you accept cash? Do you accept digital payments? Do you have shared pens to sign tabs?
  • CDC guidance on taking payments (found here) includes:
    • Do not touch your face afterward.
    • Ask customers to place cash on the counter rather than directly into your hand.
    • Place money directly on the counter when providing change back to customers.
    • Wipe counter between each customer at checkout.

Create SOPs for bussing tables.

  • Should patrons leave glassware for staff? Should individuals bus their own tables? Should staff wait to clear the table until everyone is done? How do you communicate your policy? Can you assign certain staff to service and other staff to bussing? What model gives you the highest ability to reduce touchpoints, ensure staff safety, and encourage social distancing?

Review and continue with COVID-cautious policies for selling beer to-go.

  • To-Go Practices at the Brewery
  • Handling and Filling Growlers

Review your planned events and regular activities. Cancel or reconfigure events that do not promote social distancing.

  • Do you host trivia? Are you usually at capacity with people crowding tables? Can you make it reservation-only? Open up to a larger space? Make it a virtual trivia game?
  • Do you host regular running groups? Do they practice social distancing while running? Is the group typically larger than local, state, or federal guidelines allow while social distancing?
  • How will you handle live music? The conflict of people wanting to dance/interact? Managing crowd sizes, while accommodating those not in attendance specifically for the event?

Further Considerations

Consider moving to all table service or all bar service, whichever is easier to promote and enforce social distancing.

  • Is your bar area too small to accommodate social distancing while patrons wait in line to order? Do patrons organically form crowds at your bar? Does it make sense to direct each table to a specific part of the bar to order or drop off glassware?
  • Keep in mind the flow of traffic as well as seated social distancing.
  • The best solution for your brewery might vary depending on space and traffic flow. Bar service might reduce touchpoints, while table service might be best if your bar is too small to accommodate social distancing.

Consider how to provide guests water.

  • Does your waitstaff typically handle all refills? It might be beneficial to move to a self-service water station, offer individually bottled water, or provide sanitized reusable containers on each table (like a growler). Consider the best method for your brewery to reduce shared touchpoints and promote social distancing.

Create SOPs for handling merchandise programs.

  • Do you allow customers to handle merchandise before purchase? Is your merchandise on the floor or in a staff-only area?
  • Can your staff wear gloves and masks while handling merch?
  • Present sold merch to customers in a bag and recommended they launder or wash any items before use.


Source: Brewers Association

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