San Francisco’s restaurant industry was taken by surprise when, on Tuesday, Mayor London Breed announced that outdoor dining for the county could begin Friday, June 12. The previously announced date was June 15, and the county’s Department of Public Health (DPH) had yet to issue official guidance on how to reopen safely. Those tips finally arrived late Thursday (you can read them in full below) and with that, a picture of how outdoor dining could unfold across the city.
The first thing to remember is that just because outdoor dining is allowed doesn’t mean it’s completely risk-free. Talk with the SF Chronicle, Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at UCSF School of Medicine, says it’s harder to transmit the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outdoors than indoors, so “if you want to meet people, meet them outside”. That said, multi-household gatherings without social distancing and other precautions like face masks, even those enjoyed outdoors, have been linked to virus outbreaks.
Today I spoke with a biostatistician who is immersed in covid data and when asked if they are now eating on restaurant patios, they literally burst out laughing.
— damn lead (@dansinker) June 11, 2020
That’s one of the reasons why Dr. George Rutherford, chief of the division of infectious diseases and epidemiology at UCSF, tells the stopwatch in a ranking of activity danger levels, “going out to dinner and a drink” is one of the riskiest things you can do. “Queuing in a popular restaurant with a group of other people for a few moments is considered a moderate risk. Sitting down for a long meal…could be much more dangerous,” they say. going to a restaurant, I either go very early or very late, and I miss the crowds,” advises Rutherford.
Many restaurants will not immediately open for outdoor dining. There are a few reasons for this. First, there is the licensing process: depending on the SF business time, about 365 restaurants in the city had permits to offer outdoor dining (on a terrace or public sidewalk) before the pandemic, and all can reopen these outdoor spaces from Friday evening. But places that want to launch al fresco dining now have to go through the shared space permitting process.
It’s the free, fast-track app for moving tables or retail displays on sidewalks, parking lots and other public spaces that also debuted on Tuesday — and according to the app page, restaurants do not have to wait for the city to agree to move to the sidewalk, they can go out two working days after applying. So if they jumped on it as soon as it fell, they should be ready to go on Friday June 12th. Requests to repossess parking spots won’t be approved as quickly, so it’s unlikely we’ll see tables in the road the first few days that outdoor dining is in action.
However, restaurateurs who have spoken to Eater SF since the Shared Spaces launched say some of the program’s insurance requirements mean they will have to wait longer, while another said they expect to have time this weekend to figure out the details and buy tables and chairs “but if you think I could do it between Tuesday and Friday, you’re crazy”.
Still others say they won’t reopen outdoors at all. A local restaurateur, who owns and operates a restaurant with an upscale tasting menu, told Eater SF that they “can’t imagine doing a tasting menu outside like this, what if we were to make a less option dear, that is not the case”. really makes sense. »
Mid-Market’s Hazel Southern Bar & Kitchen is much more casual, but owner Jamie Boatner tells the stopwatch that the wind whistling through the streets of San Francisco makes outdoor dining impossible in his neighborhood. “The food would be blown into Market Street,” he says. Then there is the cold and the fog, which are certainly less important in these days of climate crisis – but nevertheless, as applicants for shared spaces will not (for the time being) be allowed to add the heaters of the pre-existing outdoor spots, they will be at a disadvantage when the sun begins to set.
There are already running lists you can check at places that have reopened for sit-down dining – but don’t expect one list to cover all places. As Eater SF was reminded when we attempted to track which places remained open for takeout when the pandemic began, restaurants in San Francisco are a surprisingly rambling group, and of the roughly 4,000 restaurants in the city, literally thousands of them have maintained take-out service. This is great news for the restaurant industry and for diners, but it makes it nearly impossible to create a comprehensive – or easy-to-navigate – list on a web page.
San Franciscans should expect a similar situation regarding venues open for outdoor dining, especially given the supposed ease of obtaining a shared space permit. There are some great shopping lists so far, but over time they might also get unmanageable. If you’re in the mood for a sit-down meal, we suggest checking your favorite spot’s social media (or calling them on the—kids, ask your parents—phone) to see if they’re sit-down customers.
Many places went by reservation only. This includes spots that didn’t offer reservations before and might not even have needed them before the pandemic. But now many places are scrambling to avoid the social media shaming of throngs of customers waiting for seats, a prospect more likely if they only have a few tables on offer.
Many places also insist on reservations to enable contact tracing, the process of identifying and tracking people who may be at risk of infection. Yes, it sounds scary, weird, and a bit intrusive, but it’s also considered by many to be the best way to limit the spread of COVID-19. Before heading out for your outdoor date, it’s wise to make a reservation or contact your destination restaurant to confirm you don’t need it.
Outdoor diners in San Francisco will be allowed to share tables, even if they are not in the same household. This is probably the biggest restaurant regulation headline that came out last night, and the aspect with which San Francisco deviates the most from the rest of the Bay Area.
In most other counties that have reopened for outdoor dining, tables are limited to six people and cannot be shared by members of different households. In SF, groups can be larger than six if all are members of the same household, but must remain at six if people are from more than one living situation. But while “it is strongly recommended that only people from the same household sit together at the same table”, it is not mandatory.
San Francisco face covering laws still apply, although they are slightly modified for diners. As a reminder, you are legally required to wear a covering over your mouth and nose whenever you are within six feet of people who are not part of your household. Obviously this doesn’t work if you are going to eat or drink, so for outdoor dining you must remain masked until you are seated, and you must cover your face whenever you leave the table.
In fact, restaurants cannot legally serve or seat anyone who does not have a face covering. This means that if you order or collect food (or coffee or cocktails) to take away and you are found out, restaurants are by law not supposed to serve you and are required to ask you to mask up, or leave.
Other rules are pretty standard: Restaurants must maintain social distancing protocol, as outlined in the city’s most recent shelter-in-place order issued June 1, and must follow those rules for take-out and delivery service. which were issued in May. Venues must also keep diners outdoors, except “for limited purposes such as access to restrooms, access to outdoor space accessible only by walking through the restaurant, or ordering at an indoor counter.”