Safe Start Business Occupancy Guidance

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On May 4th, 2020, Governor Inslee signed Proclamation 20-25.3 and outlined the “Safe Start” plan, a phased approach to re-open Washington’s economy. Under the plan, businesses and activities will re-open in phases with adequate social distancing measures & health standards in place. Businesses may also need to meet additional requirements developed specifically for their industry.  The governor’s website is continually updated and provides businesses specific requirements.

Limiting the number of occupants within dine-in restaurants and taverns, in-store retail, and staffed indoor fitness centers is among the requirements of the Safe Start plan. The Safe Start plan references the Fire Code as the method for determining the maximum number of guests and in some cases staff that will be allowed. A revised Certificate of Occupancy is not required for you to comply with the governor’s orders and the City of Tacoma is not able to perform inspections to verify compliance with the governor’s orders.

The purpose of this document is to provide guidance on how to use the Fire Code to calculate the maximum guest occupancy of your business as you reopen under Phase 2 of the governor’s Safe Start Washington plan. This document does not provide all information necessary to comply with the governor’s orders. Make sure that you have all of the current information from the governor’s office by visiting their website:

The table below summarizes how Section 1004 of the International Fire Code is used to calculate maximum occupancy with adjustments made to comply with the Safe Start plan. For dine-in restaurants, taverns, and retail businesses, only guests are included in your maximum occupancy. For indoor fitness centers, all occupants, including staff, are included in your maximum occupancy.

Phase 2 Occupant Loads Factors

Bar Seating Not Permitted
Non-fixed Tables and Chairs Measure the seating area in square feet and divide by 30
Fixed Seating (Chairs) Count the total number of chairs and divide by 2
Fixed Seating (Booths) Measure the total width of all booths in inches and divide by 48
Retail / Mercantile Measure the sales floor area in square feet and divide by 200
Fitness Centers, Gyms, Pools* Measure floor area of gyms, courts, and fitness areas in square feet and divide by 300

*Employees, instructors, and trainers are included in the maximum occupancy of indoor fitness facilities.

The Safe Start plan contains other requirements which may make occupant loads calculated using this method impractical. Please use the links provided above to read the governor’s orders related to reopening your business in its entirety. Any questions about the governor’s orders must be directed to the governor’s office. While City of Tacoma staff can provide assistance with occupancy of your establishment, we cannot provide interpretations of the governor’s orders.

Who can I ask questions about the governor’s orders?
All issues regarding worker safety and health are subject to enforcement action under L&I’s Division of

Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH).

  • Employers can request COVID-19 prevention advice and help from L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH).
  • Employee Workplace safety and health complaints may be submitted to the L&I DOSH Safety Call Center: (1-800-423-7233) or via e-mail to
  • General questions about how to comply with the agreement practices can be submitted to the state’s Business Response Center.
  • Violations related to Proclamation 20-25 can be submitted here.

Examples of Restaurant and Tavern Seating








Non-fixed Tables and Chairs










Fixed Seating – Booth











Bar Seating (Not permitted)









Fixed Seating – Chair

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