Restaurants on the fence about letting customers dine indoors
As San Francisco’s daily case rate has ebbed through the month of September, the city will allow restaurants and churches to open their doors for indoor service tomorrow, at 25 percent capacity, for up to 100 people, Mayor London Breed announced Tuesday.
San Francisco is now officially in the state’s “orange” tier, with an average of 43 cases per day and a testing positivity rate of 1.6 percent. That means indoor shopping malls can also open at 50 percent capacity and fitness studios at hotels can open at 10 percent capacity. The city is also opening some places for family entertainment and certain indoor higher-education classes.
If San Francisco can stay in the “orange,” indoor movie theaters can resume at limited capacity by Oct. 7, as well as outdoor playgrounds.
In addition to the gradual shift indoors, the city is expanding the capacity of outdoor worship and political demonstrations to 200 people.
“Reopening indoor restaurants and houses of worship with limited capacity, and creating opportunities for families to safely enjoy outdoor entertainment, are a good step on our road to recovery,” Breed said in a statement on Tuesday.
Around the Mission, restaurant owners and service workers greeted the news with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.
Rodrigo García, a manager at Gracias Madre, a vegan Mexican restaurant on Mission and 19th streets, was unaware the city had decided to allow restaurants to open for indoor dining, but he welcomed the news. “This is great and long overdue,” he said. “It is difficult to sustain business without indoor seating.”
“I wish I had more notice to get my act together,” he added.
Over at Yasmin, a Syrian-Mediterranean restaurant on the corner of Valencia and 19th streets, owner Eiad Eltawil learned of the news from Mission Local as well — but he was wary.
It’s “not the right time to open inside,” he said. “Opening at 25 percent capacity is not enough to help the restaurant business and it puts everybody at risk if [Covid-19] is as contagious as they say.”
He added that, while he may provide several indoor tables, he won’t encourage it and will try to seat people outside. “It’s better that way,” he said.
He thought the city should wait for a vaccine to open restaurants. “This is not a solution.”
Joseth Léon, a waiter at Tacolicious, which has been serving high volumes of outdoor diners on Valencia Street, had mixed feelings. He said it was a “huge step, but we have to be cautious and respect safety requirements.”
Wearing a bandana over his nose and mouth, Léon said he doesn’t feel “completely safe, because he knows cases are going around.”
The Department of Public Health on Wednesday will issue “final” guidelines for indoor restaurant service and places of worship, but it’s already clear that masks will be required indoors — whether at a place of worship, a mall or a restaurant.
At restaurants, customers will need to wear masks while ordering, waiting for their order, or anytime staff is at their table. That means your mask only comes off when you’re eating. Restaurants will also be “encouraged” to seat customers via reservations, and will be required to ask patrons whether they have covid symptoms or have been potentially exposed before they are seated.
Henry Vazquez, the owner of Barrel Proof, said the pub on Mission Street has a capacity of 222 people, and the new guidelines would allow 60 customers at a time. But “we are gonna take it easy,” he said. “We’re going to do half capacity and only allow about 30 people inside,” while continuing with outdoor seating.
Vazquez is on the fence. On the one hand, it brings in more revenue. On the other hand, safety and behavior remain a top concern. “Everyone wants to follow the rules,” he said. “But they have two drinks and then it all goes off the table.”
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