Disclaimer Statement: This information was compiled on May 12, 2020. Please note that guidelines and procedures may change based on the decisions made by the Governor’s Office and other government entities/agencies.

Information from the Columbia Police Department

Q. What are allowable occupancy rates for my business?

A. The Governor’s executive order allows restaurants to have 50% of their posted occupancy inside, as long as other social distancing requirements are also followed. The order requires other retail businesses to limit the number of customers so as not to exceed five customers per 1,000 square feet of retail space or 20% of the occupancy limit, whichever is less.

Q.  What other social distancing enforcement requirements do businesses have?

A.  In restaurants, tables should be spaced six to eight feet apart. Once inside the restaurant, every customer is required to have his/her own seat and each family/household/party will need to stay at least six feet apart from each other at the table.

All businesses should enforce social distancing with customers, which means customers should not congregate within six feet of one another.  This includes times when customers are shopping, dining, and standing in line (both inside the business and outside waiting in line to enter). Businesses should also enforce social distancing requirements with employees.

CPD suggests businesses consider the following recommendations to ensure the safety of employees and customers:

  • Support customers who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 by dedicating the first hour of operation every day to serve senior customers and customers with disabilities.
  • Limit the number of customers in your business.
  • Monitor and mark the distance between customers waiting in line outside of the store and at checkout locations.
  • Install signage in interior and exterior locations to remind customers of social distancing rules.

Q. What are the potential consequences of businesses that violate Governor McMaster’s various COVID-19 executive orders?

A. Under the Governor’s Order, violations are punishable by a $100 fine or 30 days in jail. The Columbia Police Department will only issue a citation as a last resort after a warning and after educational efforts have failed to correct the problem.

Q. What is the role of the Columbia Police Department regarding social distancing?

A. Columbia Police Department officers will continue to remind patrons about the value of social distancing. The Columbia Police Department welcomes conversations with business owners and management about businesses’ role in enforcing social distancing both inside and outside of their establishment.

Q. Is the curfew in the City of Columbia still in effect?

A. The City of Columbia curfew is still in effect and enforced on public roads and public property from 11:00 p.m. – 6:00 a.m.

Q. What can everyone do to help stop the spread of coronavirus?

A. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) recommend wearing face coverings as an extra layer of protection while in public.  Additionally, both agencies recommend washing hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds, avoiding touching your face, and using hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

Information from Planning and Development

Q. If I want to establish or expand an outdoor dining area within a City right-of-way, do I need City Council approval?  What is the process?

A: The expansion or establishment of an outdoor dining area within a City right-of-way does not require City Council approval; it is administered at the staff level.  Certain requirements apply to these areas to include ADA, safety, and design criteria.  To learn more about the process and requirements, please visit www.columbiasc.net/development-inspections/encroachments

Information from the Columbia Fire Department

Q. Can my restaurant be open for in-dining service?

A. Governor Henry McMaster has established guidelines for restaurants to follow if they choose to re-open for dine-in services. These new guidelines took effect on Monday, May 11, 2020.

Q. If I choose to do dine-in service at my restaurant what guidelines will I have to follow?

A. Under the new guidelines, restaurants may have dine-in service provided that the total number of people in the business does not exceed 50% of the posted occupancy (Example: if your business is normally allowed to have 100 people inside it, under the new guidelines you can only have 50 people inside the business at a given time). Restaurant owners must also space tables 6 to 8 feet apart and implement additional cleaning and sanitizing guidelines for equipment, tables, chairs, etc. 

Everyone inside the eatery should also practice social distancing and additional health screenings should be put in place for all employees.

Q. What if my job requires me to be within 6 feet of another employee and/or customer?

A. Businesses and their employees should work together to execute all public health measures to protect restaurant staff and customers. Any worker or customer who is concerned that COVID-19 prevention guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are not being followed should contact South Carolina DHEC. This includes cleaning and sanitation concerns at a restaurant as well as concerns on employee health screenings.

Q. My business has a public waiting room with congregate seating. Should I limit access to it if I reopen?

A. Business owners are encouraged to implement a system where customers can wait inside their vehicles prior to entering the business. This is strongly encouraged for restaurants so customers do not have to remain inside the building while waiting for a table to become open.

Q. Can I report a restaurant that is not complying with the 50% occupancy restriction and/or table spacing restriction?

A. Yes, if you have a complaint of a restaurant not complying with the new occupancy or spacing guidelines, you can call CRFD’s Fire Prevention Division at (803)545-3701 or at (803)727-0443.

Q. Can I be fined for violating any restrictions under the new guidelines?

A. Those business owners who violate the new 50% occupancy restriction can be subject to a fine. The fire department is doing everything possible to seek voluntary compliance with the new rules and will work with business owners to avoid formal action if at all possible.

Q. Should I wear a face cover while working or eating in a restaurant?

A. Citizens are strongly encouraged to protect themselves by wearing face coverings any time they are in a community setting. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises that citizens use face coverings to help slow the spread of the virus. Wearing a face covering helps people who may unknowingly have the virus from transmitting it to others.

Q. Do I have to reopen my restaurant or eatery to in-dining service?

A. The decision on whether a restaurant should allow customers to dine-in is solely up to the owner of the business. Restaurants may continue to offer only outdoor dining and/or take-out options if the owner of the business so chooses. If a restaurant only offers outdoor dining, social distancing guidelines should still be followed. 

Keep in mind that the outdoor area of your restaurant also has its own occupancy limit. The number of people on an outdoor deck or patio area of your restaurant should not exceed that occupancy limit.

Q. Are there any other guidelines I should consider while operating or going to a restaurant?

A. The South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association encourages the following:

  • Restaurant customers and/or workers should self-screen before entering the restaurant for any signs of COVID-19. These signs include but are not limited to fever, cough, shortness of breath, and known close contact with someone who has COVID-19.
  • Restaurant customers should call ahead or make a reservation if possible to avoid congregating outside or in the restaurant lobby.
  • All restaurant workers and patrons should follow social distancing guidelines. Customers should not congregate in groups as they wait to enter a restaurant.

Q. My business is not a restaurant. Can it be open?

A. At this time all other guidelines and restrictions concerning essential and non-essential businesses are still in effect. Entertainment venues such as nightclubs, bowling alleys, and arcades are among the businesses that MUST remain closed. For the latest developments on what businesses can operate and which cannot, visit www.governor.sc.gov


At this time the Columbia-Richland Fire Department encourages all citizens to exercise patience as some businesses begin to reopen. With the new occupancy restrictions in place, customers of area restaurants should expect there to be wait times for them to get seated.

If you go to your favorite restaurant and there is a wait, do everything you can to practice social distancing and DO NOT congregate in large groups outside or inside of the business.

Information from Parking Services

Q. What measures did Parking Services take to support the businesses in Columbia and the users of the parking system?

A. Upon the onset of COVID-19 in March, Columbia’s Parking Service Division was quick to react as one of the first Cities to suspend parking operations in support of social distancing as well as the anticipated economic impact to our local businesses & community. This suspension included, gates being raised at City Parking Facilities as well as complimentary on-street parking.

The City of Columbia and Parking Services also provided bagged meters for restaurants who were offering take-out to encourage short-term parking for patrons supporting local business with convenient parking.

Q. How do I stay informed?

A. The parking office located at 820 Washington St. remains closed in response to COVID-19, however you may contact the Parking Services Division at (803) 545-4015 or email us at [email protected]

•Visit the City of Columbia website https://www.columbiasc.gov/
•Visit the City of Columbia webpage https://www.columbiasc.gov/parking
•Follow the city’s social media accounts @CityofColumbia
•Follow the parking services social media accounts @Colaparking

Q. Is parking enforcement still happening?

A. Yes, we continue to focus on the enforcement of safety and emergency parking needs. Parking enforcement plays a vital role in keeping emergency routes free, work zones safe, fire hydrants clear, and loading zones open for businesses delivering food, medicine, and other essential services.

Parking Services is also promoting messages to keep the community and businesses informed throughout the entire City. Parking enforcement will be issuing warnings until the end of May 2020 for timed metered parking to help encourage the turnover of spaces.

Select parking meters will continue to be bagged for 15-minute curbside pickup, until July 1st, 2020.

Beginning June 1st, 2020 parking enforcement will begin issuing parking citations for paid parking as well as timed parking and loading zones. Gates will be lowered at all City owned parking facilities. Paid visitor & guest parking will also resume in the parking facilities.
Beginning July 1st, 2020 full enforcement will begin and bagged meters for curbside pickup will be removed. Towing of vehicles related to outstanding citations per City Ordinance will resume.

Q. Are parking meters free?

A. On-street parking spaces are complimentary for the time displayed on the meter until the end of the May 2020. June 1st, 2020 parking will begin enforcing timed paid metered spaces.

Meter time limits
•Blue meters, 5 to 10 hours
•Green Meters, 2 hours
•Silver Meters, 1 hour
•Red Meters, 30 Minutes

Q. Are Parking Decks open?

A. Yes. Parking deck gates have been lifted, visitor and non-reserved space are available to the public until the end of May 2020. The City encourages the public to utilize our parking deck facilities during extended periods of parking, such as parking longer than two hours.

Monthly parkers are encouraged to park in their designated monthly parking areas. Gates at City facilities will be lowered and paid visitor parking will resume June 1st, 2020.

Where are the City Decks located?
List of Parking Deck’s
Downtown Parking Map

Q. What is Passport?

A. Passport Parking pay by cell is a convenient way to pay for metered parking and avoid a citation. Simply download the app and follow the associated instructions. When entering the license plate number into the app, use only letters and numerals; no spaces or special characters. For more information about Passport Parking, please visit https://ppprk.com/park/

Q. Can I secure a parking space in a City Parking Deck?

A. The Parking Services Division provides citizens, businesses, and visitors with numerous parking options for on-street, parking deck facilities, and surface lot parking. Monthly parking programs are based on availability, please email [email protected] to inquire about availability.

For individuals that lease their own parking through the City, complete this form: Individual Parking Agreement .Completed forms must be submitted to [email protected] , along with copies of your driver’s license and vehicle registration. Please be sure to include the facility name and last name in the email subject line. Submission of registration form does not guarantee parking.

Q. What are the monthly costs for parking in a City Deck Facility?

A. Parking rates and availability vary by facility and are subject to change. Please email [email protected] for availability and more information about all our parking programs offered.

Q. If my employees have been parking on the street, can they continue to do so and if not, where should they park?

A. Employees of local businesses are encouraged to utilize the off-street parking facilities and surface lots located throughout the city while to provide convenient short term on-street (metered) parking in support of our local businesses.

List of COC Parking Decks

Downtown Parking Map

Merchant Employee Parking Facility Locations – visitor and non-reserved complimentary until June 1st.

Main St.
• Arsenal Hill – 1812 Lincoln St. Visitor Parking: metered on lower level
• Lady St. – 1100 Lady St. Visitor Parking: non-reserved spaces
• PJ Cannon – 1227 Taylor St. Visitor Parking: level 1 & ramp
• Sumter St. – 1400 Sumter St. Visitor Parking: non-reserved spaces
• Taylor St. – 1600 Assembly St. Visitor Parking: metered on lower level
• Washington St. – 1100 Washington St. Visitor Parking: metered on lower level
The Vista
• Arsenal Hill – 1812 Lincoln St. Visitor Parking: metered on lower level
• Park St. – 1007 Park St. Visitor Parking: non-reserved spaces
• Lincoln St. – 820 Washington St. Visitor Parking: non-reserved spaces
• Lady St. – 1100 Lady St. Visitor Parking: non-reserved spaces
• Taylor St. – 1600 Assembly St. Visitor Parking: metered on lower level
• Washington St. – 1100 Washington St. Visitor Parking: metered on lower level
Five Points
• Devine St. – 2221 Devine St. Visitor Parking: level 1 and level 2
• Pavilion St. lot – 800 block of Pavilion St.

Q. If I am an employee, why should I move off of the street before June 1st?

A. Visitor and non-reserved parking is complimentary in all city owned parking facilities located throughout several locations downtown.

Parking Enforcement will be issuing warning tickets for timed on-street parking between 9:00am-6:00pm, it is encouraged while local businesses are reopening and offering services during the hours of 9:00am- 6:00pm that their employees allow for turnover of the on-street parking meters to be accessible for customers supporting local businesses downtown.

Q. What are Take Out Only Red Bagged Meters and how long can I park there?

A. Parking Services has partnered with various districts and local restaurants whom offer take out/pickup service by placing red bagged meters to provide convenient parking up-to 15 minutes. This option is available through July 1, 2020. Vehicles parked longer than 15 minutes are subject to citation beginning June 1st.

Q. What if I participate in the Monthly Parking IN/OUT Program and my hangtag has expired?

A. Parking Services is currently EXTENDING active and current IN/OUT permits for May and June. Permit holders who display their March 2020 permit will not be cited at the IN/OUT location listed.

At this time, we are asking that anyone that is looking to retain and/or purchase an IN/OUT pass to send in an email to [email protected] to receive an approval for a July 2020 IN/OUT permit. New permits will be required July 1st.

Q. Where can I make a payment for a citation or monthly parking?

A. Contactless payment options include our online customer service portal, or by mail or drop off to our customer service center at 820 Washington St. Columbia, SC 29201. Checks/Money order made to the City of Columbia.

Mail-in: 820 Washington St. Columbia, SC 29201 or 1136 Washington St. Columbia, SC 29201

Drop Off Locations:
• Dropbox located inside the parking deck, around front corner – 820 Washington St.
• Dropbox located on wall to the right of entrance – 1136 Washington St.

Online Payment Options:
The following credit cards are accepted: Visa, MasterCard and Discover. Online Citations: https://columbiasc.t2hosted.com
Online Monthly: https://cwa.columbiasc.gov/cwa/p_template


South Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association

In response to Phase Two of reopening restaurants, the South Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association (SCRLA) has provided a list of FAQ’s and guidelines for businesses to review to ensure they can open safely. If you have any questions regarding this information, please visit their website at https://www.scrla.org/

SCRLA Frequently Asked Questions

SCRLA Reopening Guidelines