San francisco restaurants

Outdoor dining on the menu at San Francisco restaurants starting Friday

Restaurants in San Francisco will be able to offer sit-down dining starting Friday, three days ahead of schedule, marking the city’s latest step in easing current shelter-in-place restrictions.

Since mid-March, restaurants in San Francisco can only offer take-out and delivery service to customers. The Mayor of London Breed announced the expansion on Tuesday, on the condition that all restaurants must operate with appropriate distancing and health and safety protocols.

The new announcement only applies to restaurants that have sit-down dining permits. Those who already have outdoor patios can take advantage of the newly eased restrictions on Friday. Those without established outdoor dining areas can apply for a permit under the city’s new Shared Spaces Program, which was developed by the city’s Economic Recovery Task Force, to use spaces such as sidewalks, parking lanes, streets and plazas for pick-up and outdoor dining. .

Under the program, restaurants receive a temporary outdoor dining permit that expires Dec. 31. Among the various requirements, restaurants must have a 6-foot-wide travel path, and establishments cannot use designated traffic lanes for bicycles and cars, bus stops or red or blue sidewalk areas such as dining areas.

All diners must follow social distancing guidelines, wear masks until seated, and stay outside the restaurant except to use an indoor bathroom. And dinners seated at the same table will be limited to groups of six, unless they are from the same household.

Mark and Sherry Hood pick up wine from Canela’s Front of House Team Leader Paul Iglesias Soledad Castillo at the restaurant on Market Street in San Francisco, Calif., on Sunday, May 24, 2020.Scott Strazzante / The Chronicle

Laurie Thomas of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association said outdoor dining will help “bring our city back to life.”

“Extending outdoor seating will help venues survive financially,” she said. “The speed with which we have been able to bring this expansion to fruition with the city is truly impressive. This will do a lot for business.

San Francisco joins a wave of Bay Area cities expanding dining options for restaurant owners in recent weeks. Restaurants, along with gyms and bars, reopened in Contra Costa County on June 1. Napa County also recently gave the catering service the go-ahead. San Mateo County recently sanctioned seated outdoor dining. San Francisco is tentatively on track to open in July, according to a plan developed by the Economic Recovery Task Force and announced May 28.

While local chefs are encouraged by the gradual reopening of restaurants, some are still approaching the process with caution and advocating for a slower approach to ensure another wave of COVID-19 cases does not cause restaurants to close.

“There are so many unknowns right now. The public is ready to come out. Business owners, because of the financial hemorrhage…of the last few months, are ready to get back to work,” said Chef Mourad Lahlou, owner of Mourad and Aziza in San Francisco; Mourad has been closed during the pandemic while Aziza is open for takeout. “But we are also nervous about what may happen. We have to make sure we know what is important — is it the health issue or the economic issue? You have to have a balance.”

Justin Phillips is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: jphillips@sfchronicle.comTwitter: @JustMrPhillips