Merchants will soon be able to use public right-of-ways, such as sidewalks, full or partial streets, or other nearby public spaces like parks and plazas for restaurant pick-ups and other retail activity, Mayor London Breed announced today. 

When restaurant dining becomes allowed, restaurants will also be able to use sidewalks and certain right-of-ways for outdoor seating. 

The new program “is a creative solution that will give our businesses more space to operate safely, and shift some of our street and sidewalk space to protect the economic and physical health of our entire community,” Breed said in a statement. 

Public health officials like this because the virus is less likely to spread outdoors — especially when people maintain a safe distance from one another and wear a mask, as required in lines, stores and other places populated by your fellow residents. 

Businesses will still need city permission via a “no-cost, expedited permit to share the sidewalk or parking lane for business purposes,” according to the mayor’s office. The permitting process will be available in mid-June. Check SF.gov for updates. 

The mayor’s office said that the social distancing requirements are likely to “continue to apply until there is a vaccine for the virus,” and the so-called “Shared Spaces Program” will allow businesses to reopen while providing additional space for distancing among employees and customers.  

Laurie Thomas, the executive director, Golden Gate Restaurant Association, said she was happy with the program. 

“With social distancing and the reduced number of customers who will be able to dine in, the ability to expand seating to outside will help our eating and drinking establishments be able to survive financially,” she said in a statement. “We are so excited to help bring life back to our city and especially to our neighborhoods.”

Although the state Department of Public Health announced new statewide guidance on Monday to allow the reopening of places of worship and in-store retail shopping, San Francisco’s current Stay-Home Health Order remains in effect.  In other words, for the time being, there will be no religious gatherings and no in-store retail in San Francisco.

If you read us often, please support our reporting. We depend on you.