Restaurants in San Francisco can reopen for outdoor dining on June 15, Mayor London Breed announced last Thursday.
If all goes well and the city’s cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) remain within acceptable levels, indoor dining will be allowed to resume a month later, on July 13. In order to hit those target dates, however, the city’s rules for face coverings and mask use will be tightened, Breed said Thursday, both indoors and out.
The two-part reopening for restaurants isn’t a plan that’s been widely used elsewhere, at least not in California.
Of the 47 counties across the state that have moved into Stage 2.5 (the stage that allows sit-down dining), all have reopened indoor and outdoor dining simultaneously. When asked about the month-long wait, a City Hall source told Eater SF that the phased approach is to allow SF’s Department of Public Health to track any increases of infections, and to use that data to then decide to move forward with indoor dining, or to roll restaurant opening back. “The last thing we want to do,” Breed said Thursday, “is begin to reopen and get a surge of cases, and have to move back.”
According to the mayor, the Shared Spaces program — in which restaurants and bars can apply for free, expedited permits to operate and seat patrons in adjacent sidewalks, parking lanes, and other public spaces — was the key to unlock the June 15 outdoor dining date. Recent studies suggest that it is far more difficult to contract the virus while outdoors, as long as a six-foot distance between people is maintained and other now-familiar safety practices (hand washing, don’t share food or utensils, cover your mouth when you cough) are followed.
The July 13 date is only a “target date,” for now, the mayor says, and could be adjusted to an earlier or later date depending on infection rates. In addition to the reopening guidelines provided by the state, San Francisco will have its own set of modifications for indoor dining, all of which must be followed by spots that wish to reopen.
While bars that serve food will be able to follow that same timeline, bars without food will have to wait far longer. According to the timeline announced Thursday, booze-only bars will be part of the city’s “Phase 3” of reopening, which is scheduled for “mid-August.” But even that vague date could change, as officials warn that more than one sub-phase for #3 is likely.