Accessible Restaurants and Bars

Thursday, December 5, 2019
2:30 PM - 4:00 PM Eastern Time Zone


New trends in the design of restaurants and bars pose challenging questions on the best way to achieve access so that they are inclusive of everyone. This session will review requirements in the ADA and ABA Accessibility Standards for restaurants, cafeterias, and bars and address common sources of confusion. Presenters will cover accessible seating at tables, counters, and bars, dispersion, raised and sunken dining areas, mezzanines, food service lines, and other requirements at different types of dining and drinking establishments.

Continuing Education Recognition Available

Certificate Credit hours
California Architects Board 1.5
Certificate of Attendance 1.5
ICC 1.5


Bill Botten, Training Coordinator, Senior Accessibility Specialist, Office of Technical and Information Services, U.S. Access Board

Juliet Shoultz, Transportation Engineer, Office of Technical and Information Services

Questions for presenters:

1 L High bar dining counters project over circulation path, but the protrusion is protected by bar stools, except the corners are exposed. Are those corners considered a protrusion?
2 Is a rooftop without elevator access allowable if it provides the same service as the main level.
3 Can you address accessibility on the service side? In food service at a university what are the requirements for accessible design - i.e. counter work/sales versus food preparation areas.
4 Please describe the 2010 requirements for accessible seating at a bar where food and drinks are served.
5 If food and drinks are served at bar, does a portion of bar have to be accessible?
6 Are there any requirements for accessible bar counter widths and heights? If so how wide and high are they required to be? The 1994 ADA 4.32.4 says 28 to 34 inches high and 60" wide. Consuming food or drinks from a 34" high table is not usable for anyone so making the table or bar height at 30" with 27" knee toe clearance, is a comfortable usable functional height per section 504. Or can we say they need to go to a table nearest to the bar that is reserved for the bar service and no other use? How are we supposed to make sure the closest table to the bar is always kept vacant? FYI excerpt from 1994 ADA. 5.2 Counters and Bars. Where food or drink is served at counters exceeding 34 in (865 mm) in height for consumption by customers seated on stools or standing at the counter, a portion of the main counter which is 60 in (1525 mm) in length minimum shall be provided in compliance with 4.32 or service shall be available at accessible tables within the same area.
7 Clarify what is needed for accessibility in a mess hall in a correctional setting? How to determine how many accessible seats should be provided? Any special signage? Food service in correctional mess halls is typically via a proportioned try pick up , what features need to be accessible? What about in existing facilities, can reasonable accommodation be substituted in lieu of a construction change? What are some of the key difference for correctional mess hall in a privately owned facility and a federally owned facility?
8 Please get into the requirements for providing the same experience for persons seated in mobility devices as those who are seated at stools at bar areas. I have been an expert in litigation where the Plaintiff claimed that even though the lowered section complied in every other respect, the plaintiff was discriminated against because they did not have the same view into the bartender area as non-disabled patrons.
9 In my state, the building code is still stuck on the 2009 a117.1, which as far as I know, does not include counter heights (e.g. bar seating). It is also my understanding that ICC did not accept the latest revisions to A117.1 which also included other significant changes that would diverge from ADA requirements. Do you have any sense of the future of ADA and ICC harmony?
10 Frequently I see at restaurants that the wide turning space in front of restroom doors are often used as additional storage, such as for children's high chairs. Is this considered a violation?
11 With at least one state adopting and enforcing A117.1-2017 edition (South Carolina), what is the Board's position on complementary updates to the 2010 Standards so as not to conflict?
12 If a table is so small, such that an able-bodied person would not be expected to pull up under it (round cafe table, 24" and smaller), are you required to provide a separate table with standard knee clearance for a wheel chair if a such a seating situation would not be provided for able-bodied customers?
13 The ABA required toe clearance is 17" deep, but it says where it is needed for circulation, does that pertain to all of the dining tables, so any table that is 36"w with a center star base would not be compliant, correct?
14 What portion of each dining setup needs to be ABA and ADA complaint?
15 Can you please work through the following scenarios in the above questions. Pre-1990 building with bar. No renovations. Can it remain "as is"? 1994 building with 42" h bar and "accessible tables" in the area. Were these accessible tables required to be FIXED tables (since the ADA only applies to Fixed Elements). If the acc. tables were Fixed (and complied), is the existing bar Safe-Harbored? If the acc. tables were Fixed, but non-compliant, can the 1 or 2 tables be corrected as an Element and become Accessible Fixed tables? (therefore leaving the bar to remain "as is")? If the tables are movable tables, does the bar have to be renovated due to Barrier Removal? Only in case of an Alteration? What is considered "readily achievable to the maximum extent feasible" regarding non-accessible bars?
16 Is there any table with a center pedestal support which complies with ADA? 4 spokes? flat circular disk?
17 An existing small restaurant wants to construct a raised platform in an existing seating area so that the tables moved up onto on this platform will be somewhat more private and "romantic." It will be enclosed by a railing, and there will be a single stair at the entrance to the area. This area is in the rear of the dining room and will comprise about a third of the total seating of the restaurant. Is this raised dining area required to be constructed with vertical access? It will only be 7 inches higher than the rest of the dining room.
18 1. What degree of alteration to an existing bar area within a restaurant, is required before creation of a lowered seating area at the bar is required? A restaurant is updating an old with new surfaces, all new bar equipment, and replacing the floor in the area surrounding the bar. 2. Assuming it is an alteration, would the whole budget for the restaurant and bar renovation be considered in determining if the bar alteration is a hardship? Or just the budget for the alterations to the bar area itself?
19 As part of a larger renovation a restaurant created a "chef's table" area within the kitchen. As is typical for such experiences, a special reservation is required for 6 to 12 guests, and a special tasting menu is provided, and the experience includes a kitchen tour and interaction with the executive chef herself throughout the experience. Does this special table within the kitchen area, require one accessible seating location regardless of the restaurant's compliance with its other seating in the main dining room? Is an accessible path to this table required to be provided and maintained including the usual elements? If this "table" is actually just loose tables and chairs, does that exempt it from accessibility under the oft-cited principle that these tables and chairs would fall out if you picked up the restaurant and shook it?
20 Our organization is beginning to approach local businesses and provide them with information on how to make their businesses more accessible. Several small shops are located in older buildings that have not been renovated in many years. They all have 1 or two steps. They serve food but are not full restaurants or bars. (e.g. cheese shop, pickle shop, book store with coffee). Is it acceptable for the restaurants to provide temporary ramps onto the side walk from their front steps, rather than permanent ones? What kind of guidance or code regulations could be offered to businesses that chose to use temporary ramps?
21 Restaurant has a bar and the rest of the "normal" dining area for the restaurant has seating that is NOT fixed and/or built-in (free standing tables and chairs). The dining tables are also by the bar area. Are you mandated to provide a lower section of the bar or can you have an accessible table by the bar to address the accessible bar seating requirement?
22 Does a host/hostess station need to be lowered? The host usually comes around the station to address the persons with disability.
23 The wheelchair footrest does not go all the way to the ground. Why is there zero tolerance for table base height?

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