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San Francisco will be the first major California city to bring back indoor dining

During a webinar on Wednesday from the San Francisco Office for Economic and Human Resources Development, SF Assistant Health Officer Dr. Susan Philip suggested that SF restaurant owners should plan to reopen their dining rooms on March 3rd, assuming COVID-19 infection rates keep falling.

Of course, if the past year has taught us something, nothing is certain. Philip made it clear that these dates could change if infection rates rise or if state officials make changes to their reopening plan.

While San Francisco remains in the most restrictive, purple tier of the color-coded reopening of the state State and local officials have confirmed the California Department of Health expects to bring SF to the red stage on March 2nd. According to Philip, the day after entering the red tier, San Francisco is expected to resume permitted activities by the state, including indoor dining with a reduced capacity of 25 percent or 100 people. San Francisco will be the third county in the Bay Area to reopen indoor dining, joining Marin and San Mateo counties, both of which opened dining rooms on February 24th.

The last time San Francisco entered the red row in August 2020, SF officials insisted that indoor dining should be delayed until the city transitioned to the even less restrictive orange row (but only allowed reopening on the more restrictive red levels). There will be no such delay this time.

In addition to the capacity limit of 25 percent, restaurants are only allowed to share a table with a maximum of four people who are members of the same household. In the meantime, up to three households with a maximum of six guests can dine outdoors.

The announcement – and the lack of delay – was welcome news for the Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA), the city’s food lobby. In a statement, the organization said, „We are grateful that the Mayor, Dr. Philip, Dr. Colfax and the Department of Health will allow San Francisco to comply with state regulations.” In other words, reopening immediately instead of setting their own stricter local guidelines.

The move to the red row also means that the curfew in San Francisco, which requires restaurants to close all seating by 10 p.m., will be lifted. The curfew was originally a government-mandated restriction that was lifted at this level in late January. But San Francisco kept it, said the county health director at the time, because officials “wanted to see how [COVID-19] Numbers ensure that we don’t have to turn back again. „

But even though the curfew is gone, indoor food must close at 10 p.m. every night, Philip says. Outdoor dining can stay open after 10 p.m. provided guests wish to stay outside in the SF evening chill.

Bars with no food must remain closed under the red row, Philip confirmed. Bars that serve food (either themselves or with a partner) can also open indoor service at 25 percent for a maximum of 100 people.

It’s been a long way back to indoor dining for restaurants in San Francisco, which reopened on September 30, 2020 with a capacity of 25 percent. Six weeks later, COVID-19 cases rose 250 percent, causing the city to close dining rooms again on November 13, back for al fresco dining and takeout. As infections continued to rise, even outdoor dining was stopped, with most of the Bay Area not being allowed to take away until December 6th.

A second rollback of openings is not an option, according to GGRA. „Any additional closings will have drastic economic consequences, including temporary and permanent closings,” it said in a statement. „We urge our restaurant members and San Francisco residents to adhere to these regulations in order to give us the best chance to keep this reopening going.”