The city of Austin is serving up critical information about the coronavirus and its accompanying disease, COVID-19, with a hotline for local restaurants.


The hotline, Helping Austin Restaurants Today, can be reached at 512-978-4278.


It will be staffed between 7:45 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday, city officials said Monday in a statement.


Voicemails can be left after hours or restaurant employees can email EHSD.Service@austintexas.gov with questions.


The hotline was created to help restaurants stay up to date with regulations, guidelines and scientific findings related to COVID-19 and the coronavirus, Don Hastings, assistant director of Austin Public Health’s Environmental Health Services Division, said in the statement.


"We’re hoping this direct line connecting restaurants to our environmental health professionals will help," Hastings said.


Multiple restaurant owners told the American-Statesman they had little familiarity with the hotline. Some said they were told about it Friday.


"We had not previously heard of the restaurant hotline but we think it could be helpful to all restaurant operators, especially as we all look forward to when we can reopen our doors to the community and operate in a greater capacity," said Jamie Cohen, Kerbey Lane Cafe chief operating officer. "The information changes quickly, and we all have a lot of questions, and we appreciate the city of Austin creating this resource."


Local restaurants shifted last month to offering only takeout, delivery or drive-thru service after restrictions were enacted to slow the spread of coronavirus.


Some have taken up selling grocery items to customers or creating cocktail kits. Bars have had to completely shut down.


Emergency rules in place include requirements that restaurants disinfect surfaces every hour and make hand sanitizer available to customers. Establishments also have to display Austin Public Health signs about preventing disease.


Food handlers are not allowed to work if they develop a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, according to the rules.