Dear Louisiana business owners and operators,
Thank you, as always, for being committed to opening safely as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
As we continue to experience colder temperatures, it is being noticed that many businesses are creating outdoor seating areas with enclosed tents as well as converting current outdoor areas into enclosures by using material like tarps and visqueen.
First, we'd like to remind everyone that an enclosed space, like a tent with all sides down, is considered an indoor space, and therefore would be subject to any Covid-19 mitigation measures applying to indoor spaces within your business type.
Specifically for restaurants, bars with restaurant conditional permits and event centers, detailed guidelines on what constitutes an enclosed space, as well as the appropriate types of tents that can be used in relation to the fire code, have been outlined in an Interpretive Memo issued at the beginning of the pandemic, found here: http://sfm.dps.louisiana.gov/doc/interpmemos/im_2020-23_Revised.pdf. In short, the document outlines that large outdoor unenclosed areas not connected to a structure and that have a capacity of over 50 people (over 350 square feet) are classified by the code as an "outdoor assemblyˮ and require at least two widely separated exits. Tents and covered areas are considered ˮstructuresˮ and also require plan review. *Reminder, if you put a roof and walls (even plastic) then the indoor spacing rules and capacity apply.
Further, know that creating an enclosure out of a previously opened space, like a patio or front-facing sidewalk, especially with unapproved materials, is a fire hazard and a violation of the state's fire code. R.S. 40:1574.B states: ˮNo repair, remodeling, or addition shall be made to any structure, watercraft, or movable affecting the exits, stairs, seating arrangement, fire protection, or other details of construction covered by this Part until plans and specifications therefor have been submitted to and reviewed by the fire marshal and appear to him to satisfactorily comply with the laws, rules, regulations, and codes of the state.ˮ Outdoor areas that restrict free and direct exiting from the property due to fencing, rails, steps, or other barriers are considered an addition to the structure and are required to be submitted for plan review.
Plan Reviews can be submitted via our website, lasfm.org. A video explaining how this process works can be found here: https://youtu.be/kyX5TngPFFc
Please make sure you and your staff is educated on these requirements and safety measures as to ensure your customers and staff are protected as best as possible from emergencies, like fire, and the continuing threat posed by COVID-19.