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Restaurants You Shouldn't Go to Even If They're Open

Dining restrictions look different across the country, however, these red flags should always be avoided.
FACT CHECKED BY Checkmark Faye Brennan
indoor dining

Right now, Americans are confused—to dine out or not to dine out? The answer is, well, complicated.

Dining restrictions look vastly different across the country, with some states having the same guidelines enforced statewide and others having different limitations set in place from city-to-city. As cases continue to rise, it's even more important to make sure that everyone is on the same page regarding the safety guidelines that should always be followed—regardless of where you may reside in the U.S.

Here are five general red flags you should avoid if you plan to dine inside (or outside) at a restaurant. See any of these? Don't sit down. And after, don't miss The Saddest Restaurant Closures In Your State.


Places that don't enforce a strict capacity limit

People with face mask drinking at coffee house

Dining restrictions differ at the city and state levels, which means the capacity limit varies drastically depending on where you live. For example, restaurants in Connecticut must restrict indoor dining services to 50% capacity and must adhere to a 10 p.m. curfew, whereas in certain parts of California, indoor dining is banned, but in others, it's reduced to 25% capacity.

Bottom line: Before you indoor dine, make sure you're aware of the guidelines set in place for your city so you can gauge whether or not a restaurant is following best practices so you stay as safe as possible.

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Restaurants that offer self-serve buffets should be avoided at this time to minimize the risk of exposure. In fact, Maryland and Wyoming have both banned buffet services altogether. Think about it, if everyone is touching the same serving utensils and hovering over the same food, your risk of contracting the virus could heighten with these two factors alone.

Bottom line: Steer clear of buffets until further notice.


Indoor establishments with no visible ventilation

chain restaurant

The key to safe indoor dining? According to the nation's leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, adequate airflow is crucial. In an Instagram Live conversation Dr. Fauci had with HIV/AIDS-LGBTQ+ activist Peter Staley in September, when indoor dining was beginning to resume in major cities, Fauci said, "I think anything that has airflow out, not airflow in the room" is the key for businesses to start reopening their dining rooms.

Bottom line: If you plan to dine indoors and don't see any windows open letting fresh air in, consider patronizing another business.


Outdoor spaces that offer minimal ventilation

outdoor dining bubbles on New York sidewalk

The same concept of ventilation can be applied to confined outdoor dining spaces as well. As functional, intimate, and not to mention trendy as they may seem, some of these tents or even small shed-like setups can be a breeding ground for the virus. This can especially be an issue if you're dining with someone outside of your household.

Bottom line: If you go this route, make sure there are visible vents in the pod or tent before sitting down to eat with someone you don't live with.


Restaurants that have had outbreaks

indoor dining

This is as simple as staying on top of any news of COVID outbreaks in your town. Check online to see if any outbreaks have been linked back to one particular business, which includes cases among a restaurant's staff and/or diners.

Bottom line: Stay in the know about the restaurant you're planning on attending. Do your research in advance to keep you and your family safe this holiday season.

For more restaurant news, check out this explosive new report that reveals what's happening within your favorite dining establishments.

Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the news editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and drink coverage, and breaking down the science behind the latest health studies and information. Read more