Top Hat To Reopen With Extensive Operational Changes and Dedicated Position To Oversee Health Safety in the Era of COVID-19

(*Updated safety procedures can be found here)

To: Missoula Community

The State of Montana and the Missoula County Health Department are permitting Phase One businesses to reopen, which includes restaurants and bars. As part of this reopening process, the Missoula County Health Department has created thoughtful guidance on how to operate safely in this “new normal.” The Top Hat is working closely with the Health Department to implement these new guidelines.

As a member of the Missoula community, I appreciate the mixed feelings and diverging points of view on when, and how, to reopen our economy in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. We, at the Top Hat, have decided to reopen, and feel strongly that we can do so in a safe and responsible manner.  

To help the public better understand our approach, I have outlined below the actions the Top Hat is taking to reopen our business. Again, the goal is to reopen with safety as our top priority.

Creation of a new position dedicated to operating responsibly during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have created a new position titled “Health Safety Manager”. We feel having a person dedicated to ensuring a safe environment is the best course of action. Our new Health Safety Manager will have the following main responsibilities.

• Ensure the Top Hat is strictly following all requirements and recommendations of the Missoula County Health Department.

• Oversee all Front of House and Back of House staff training to ensure our staff understands the key issues and risks associated with COVID-19.

• Work with our suppliers and vendors to ensure the delivery of food and beverage is done in a manner consistent with our internal policies and the requirements of the Health Department.

• Continuously research activities of restaurants in areas that have opened up, such as parts of Europe and other US states, to continually develop best practices of operating in the new normal of COVID-19.

• Work with the entertainment operations of Logjam Presents, the Missoula County Health Department and the State of Montana to develop a future  plan for opening our entertainment venues. We recognize this will be a Phase Three initiative, and is likely not to occur in the near future, but developing a thoughtful and thorough plan will be essential in a successful reopening of entertainment venues.

Implementation of numerous operational procedures to ensure a safe environment. As indicated above, the Top Hat’s number one concern is the safety and wellbeing of its customers, employees and the Missoula community as we collectively reopen Phase One businesses. Extensive safety measures will be taken by front and back of house staff to ensure the safest possible service. As a result, the Top Hat Restaurant will be taking many precautions to curtail exposure to COVID-19. These measures include:

• Social distancing between all tables. The restaurant will significantly reduce its maximum occupancy so that tables can be spaced at least 6 feet apart from each other.

• Controlled customer flow. A host will manage the arrival and seating of customers with a designated waiting area near the front door.

• No bar seating. All bar seating will be removed from the Top Hat to limit exposure between customers and staff.

• Spaced out server stations. Properly spaced server wells will now occupy the bar space to minimize the grouping of servers.

• Groups limited to six customers. While all tables will be spaced 6 feet apart, no single table will be allowed to have more than six customers. This is in compliance with Missoula Health Department guidance.

• Dedicated sanitization staff. Dedicated bussers will be responsible for clearing tables after each seating and will fully sanitize tables prior to the next seating.

• Continue sanitization. Top Hat staff will continue thorough and frequent sanitation practices in the dining room, bathrooms, server stations and kitchen area during service hours. 

• Employee pre-shift assessments. Staff members will have their temperature checked prior to each shift. Any employee who is experiencing any symptoms associated with COVID-19 has been told to stay at home. If symptoms are noticed by management upon their check-in procedure, that staff member will be immediately sent home.

•Protective face masks for all staff. All kitchen, delivery and front of house staff will be required to wear protective face masks while on duty. Servers will be required to turn in their masks after each shift for our custodial staff to wash. This will ensure all fask masks remain sterile and clean for each new shift.

• Daily deep clean. Our in-house custodial staff will conduct a deep clean each day before service.

Reduced menu. Dine-in service will include a slightly reduced food and drink menu from what was offered pre-COVID-19. The reduced menu size will accommodate more efficient kitchen operations and will give staff a safe working space.

• Strict compliance of all deliveries. The Top Hat will require all vendors and third-party partners to wear protective face masks when entering any portion of the Top Hat. Additionally, the Top Hat staff will wipe down and fully sanitize all food and beverage deliveries prior to those deliveries entering the kitchen.

• Frequent server handwashing. Through discussions with the Missoula Health Department, we have determined that constant hand washing is more effective than wearing gloves. As a result, servers will be required to constantly wash their hands throughout their shift, but will not be wearing gloves.

• In-depth staff training. Working with our newly created Health Safety Manager’, all staff will be required to participate in our COVID-19 training prior to working any shifts.

• Disposable menus. The Top Hat will only offer disposable menus for our table service. All menus will be thrown out after each service.

• Cashless Transactions. The Top Hat will be moving towards a cashless environment, encouraging all customers to pay by card. 

• To Comply with safety & health standards, children must remain at their table

Again, we at the Top Hat appreciate the concerns of many in our community. We are taking the COVID-19 pandemic very seriously. We believe strongly that we will create a safe and responsible environment for our customers to enjoy the Top Hat menu.

The Top Hat would like to thank its loyal customers for their continued support. We look forward to serving you in a safe and thoughtful manner as we begin to reconnect with our community in this  new normal.


Nick and Robin Checota, Owners of the Top Hat & Logjam Presents