Whiz Burgers storefront
Photo by Lydia Chávez

Permitted restaurants will be able to seat diners outdoors starting on Friday, Mayor London Breed announced today. 

“Opening our restaurants is a great step that will help our small businesses that are struggling, our workers who need paychecks, and our residents who are ready to safely sit outside and enjoy a meal,” Breed said in a statement. 

The outdoor seating arrangements are being permitted via the “Shared Spaces Program,” which allows businesses to use sidewalks, parking lanes, streets, parks and plazas for restaurant pick-up, outdoor dining, and even retail. 

Restaurants will have to ensure that patrons wear masks until they’re seated and any time they leave the table, and they can only go inside only to use the bathroom or to get to an outdoor area. 

Tables will also be limited to six customers, except for members of the same household, and restaurants will have to rigorously clean and disinfect. 

The establishment must serve food to participate in the program. 

Laurie Thomas, the executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, called the move “radical.” 

“It’s amazing they pulled it all together,” she said. “It’s so hard to do this normally.” 

Thomas said restaurants already in possession of an outdoor seating permit can begin immediately on Friday, but she estimated that it would only take days to be approved for the permit if a restaurant applies.  

Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the Department of Public Health, said San Francicso was ready for the re-opening. “With hospitalizations down, and testing up, we are making progress in building the new environment where we are gradually reopening,” he said.

Restaurants opened three days ahead of the Monday opening of other parts of the economy including retail, which can also begin indoor service on Monday and can participate in the Shared Space Program. 

Mission Local has reported that small businesses, including restaurants, have seen sales plummet — but Thomas said the ability to offer outdoor seating “should make a big difference.”   

“It should activate sidewalks and bring life to the city,” she said. “Everyone’s super excited.”

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Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

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  1. They should also grant liquor licenses to the establishments that can only serve beer and wine. This would greatly help restaurants financially

  2. If I were the City, I would cut out all the bureaucracy once and for all, and let small business owners figure it out in order to get ahead. If I have to start filling out paper work to get permits, I’m just not even going to bother. I own Chile Lindo, a small empanadas shop on 16th & Capp, and I can’t understand how this City can be so counterproductive when it comes to its demands on small businesses. We do not have huge staffs to manage different departments. The business owner wears all the hats!

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