San francisco restaurants

San Francisco restaurant group could sue city if it bans outdoor dining

California could face another statewide shutdown this week. Some restaurants say that if outdoor dining is no longer allowed, they may have to temporarily close. Others say the added restriction could mean they will have to shut down for good.

A KTVU team visited restaurants in three different San Francisco neighborhoods to gauge the reaction to what they would do if political leaders decided to impose new restrictions such as an outdoor dining ban.

In Union Square, John’s Grill does great business with al fresco dining, even on Wednesday nights.

The restaurant closed for nearly five months when San Francisco issued a shelter-in-place order in March.

Takeout wasn’t an option then and it’s not an option now.

“Just delivering doesn’t make sense to us,” owner John Konstin Jr. said.

The restaurant reopened for outdoor dining at the end of July. Now Konstin has said he will close the restaurant for as long as it takes if another shelter-in-place order comes from the governor of California that bans outdoor dining.

“We’re waiting for Gavin Newsom to determine if we’re going to do a stay-at-home order or if we’re going to continue service. We’re patiently waiting to see what the word is,” Konstin said.

In Richmond District, the owner of Aziza said even outdoor heaters were not enough to warm the cold of another possible shelter-in-place.

“If we lose outdoor seating, we will close until everyone can come back to eat inside,” owner Mourad Lahlou said.

He said the cost to keep his restaurant open only for takeout would more than double what it would cost to temporarily close.

“You go from desperation to anger to a bit of hope and resilience. You go through that range of emotions every day and it’s exhausting.”

Lahlou said he was at breaking point: “It’s either getting caught in a fire or jumping over the cliff. You have to choose your path. A lot of us are in that situation.

He said many restaurants needed financial help from the city, state or federal government or they wouldn’t survive.

At Castro, Poesia, an Italian restaurant, added an outdoor patio in response to COVID-19 restrictions.

“It was storage. I’m cleaning it up,” owner Francesco Dippolito said.

It plans to stay open even though only takeout is allowed.

“Right now they’re allowing us to stay open. We’re staying open. Tomorrow they’re telling us to close. We’re closing, hoping we can do something better the next day,” Dippolito said.

Back at John’s Grill, the owner says he’s optimistic his restaurant will survive.

“We’ve been pivoting all year with the punches. We’re ready for whatever’s to come,” Konstin said.

Lahlou said a group of restaurant and bar owners could sue the city if it banned outdoor service. If that happens, he said he plans to join that lawsuit.