Come October, freezing your butt off may no longer be part of the dining experience in San Francisco.
On Friday, Mayor London Breed announced plans for the city to allow indoor dining at 25 percent capacity once the city is classified as orange on the state watch list. That could happen as early as the end of this month —but only if case counts and hospitalizations continue to decline.
“Restaurants have been hit hard by COVID-19. Many have adapted with takeout and outdoor dining, but they’ve still been barely hanging on and, sadly, some have closed for good,” Breed said in a press release. “We are laying out the next steps to make sure restaurants are ready to reopen as safely as possible.”
The city and the Golden Gate Restaurant Association will work together over the coming weeks to develop a self-certification process that will enable each restaurant to demonstrate that they are complying with safety protocols. In addition to the 25 percent capacity limitation, restaurant patronage will be capped at 100 diners at a time.
The changes come as welcome news to restaurants, which have been struggling financially despite the popularity of outdoor dining. “For restaurants on Larkin Street in Little Saigon, the news that we may be able to begin reopening indoors again in weeks rather than months is really hopeful,” said Rene Colorado, Executive Director of the Tenderloin Merchants Association, in the press release. “Outdoor dining has been important but it’s not enough alone, especially as we approach the wetter, colder months.”
Still, indoor dining will create even more ethical and practical challenges for restaurant workers and management, who are balancing their health and finances. Eating and drinking indoors presents increased risk of Covid-19 transmission, according to a recent study from the CDC. It also remains to be seen whether these risks will cause would-be diners to stay away from indoor restaurants.
Mayor Breed’s announcement comes days after the city allowed gyms, salons, and other personal services to begin operating indoors at limited capacity. Elementary schools will be permitted to begin reopening for in-person learning next Monday, with middle and high schools to follow in October and November, if public health indicators remain stable. So far only private schools have completed their reopening applications to resume in-person learning next week; public elementary schools are still figuring out safety protocols and negotiating with teacher’s unions, and do not yet have a set reopening date, according to the Chronicle.
Museums will begin opening next week as well, starting with the De Young Museum and Palace of the Legion of Honor on Friday, September 25 (following three days of members-only access). SFMOMA will reopen on Sunday October 4, kicking off two weeks of free access to all.
All of these plans, however, come with a big asterisk. As San Francisco business owners know well, the Department of Public Health will not hesitate to roll back reopening plans if cases begin to surge once again.