A man enters a bar period.
Today marks the first day in more than a year that San Francisco bars can partially open indoors without the need to supply customers with groceries. This means that all bars can finally be reopened after more than a year of pandemic-related turbulence.
Although many bars have been partially open indoors since mid-March, offering customers options for meals, bar owners still hailed today’s milestone as a minor turning point.
“In terms of money, it’s not a game changer, but it’s a step in the right direction,” said Ben Bleiman, who owns the Teeth on Mission bar and 19th Street, among others.
He said most bars have been partially open since March when the city eased restrictions on indoor dining and most bars will continue to serve food to keep working at 50 percent capacity. Bars that do not serve food can only be opened to a capacity of 25 percent, and each bar must accommodate its guests.
When San Francisco moved into the state’s “yellow row” this week, pool halls and bowling alleys could also be opened to 50 percent capacity, and outdoor gatherings could be expanded to 75 participants.
“It’s going to be a struggle for us until we’re 100 percent again,” said Johnny Davis, co-owner of Bender’s on South Van Ness on September 19.
And it was a battle for Bender’s that largely dormant for a full year, and like many bars considering closing. But the rock’n’roll bar made it thanks to donations from loyal customers. It started welcoming guests exactly a year after the bars had to close in March last year.
“People are definitely still hesitant to come out and join the rest of the party,” said Davis. “But the more people get vaccinated and we move forward, the more comfortable people become.”
Marisol Gonzalez, owner of Lupulandia, a Tijuana-inspired bar and restaurant on Mission Street between the 18th and 19th, prepared the inside of the bar for customers. It was the bar’s first day of business in many months, though it had been able to serve food since March.
“It feels like the time is right,” said Gonzalez, adding that we might be able to serve drinks and food at 50 percent capacity. “We could survive this.”
The spacious bar and brewery has a capacity of 143, which means Gonzalez can serve 70 guests.
Of course, she added: “We’re looking forward to 100 percent.”