San Francisco restaurants will have to close their indoor dining rooms on Friday due to a spike in coronavirus cases, Mayor London Breed announced on Tuesday.
“The fact is that the virus is spreading and we have to make the tough decisions,” she said.
Grant Colfax, the city’s health director, said cases are expected to increase rapidly unless steps are taken to reduce indoor activities. In the past two weeks, the case rate in San Francisco rose from 3.7 to 9 per 100,000 population. There are an average of 80 new cases a day, up from 32 at the end of October, he said.
“If we don’t reverse this, our autumn wave will outpace our summer wave,” he said.
San Francisco restaurants have been allowed to open at 25% capacity since the end of September. That should climb to 50% in November, but the city paused its reopening plans, which resulted in some restaurants like Tadich Grill canceling their expected reopenings.
The Golden Gate Restaurant Association, which represents restaurants in San Francisco, was disappointed with the change.
“While our primary concern remains the health and well-being of our community, we expect an immediate negative impact; including more restaurant closings, both short-term and permanent, significant job losses and numerous employees who lose health insurance coverage, “said a statement by the association.
The rollback comes at a time when coronavirus cases are increasing across the country and the weather is cooling, causing more people to want to spend time indoors. On Tuesday, 10 California counties, including Contra Costa and Santa Cruz, were placed in more restrictive tiers due to rising coronavirus cases as the state reopened.
“As we approach the holiday season we all need to be aware of what is at stake,” said Breed. “Making a decision to support opening a store and then closing that store is heartbreaking. It is very, very unfortunate, but it is necessary. “
As part of the rollback, Breed said the city would spend $ 4 million to help businesses such as waiving fees for additions like heating and funding to buy social distancing devices.
The famous Beit Rima des Castro Arabic restaurant was one of the first San Francisco restaurants to open for indoor dining earlier this year. Owner Samir Mogannam said the timing of the Breed announcement couldn’t be worse for restaurants.
“The weather is getting colder and people want to come in now,” he said. “It will be very painful not to be able to do that, because at the moment every little bit that you can contribute counts.”
John’s Grill, the power lunch spot in the financial district, was another early adopter of indoor dining. Owner John Konstin Jr. said he looks forward to resuming indoor dining if it is allowed – but in the interests of customer safety, he supports the takeback.
Indoor dining helped keep John’s Grill alive, but Konstin Jr. said he had already considered weatherproofing the restaurant’s exterior.
“This will take a while, so we’re considering upgrading an outdoor parklet and making it a more permanent structure that will keep guests warm in the winter,” he said.
The worst part of the situation is having to lay off staff again, said Joe Betz, owner of the classic House of Prime Rib restaurant. He waited until the restaurant was back inside to reopen the historic restaurant and hire 60 people again. Now he has to decide how many employees he can keep with just the pick-up service.
“For me, that’s the most devastating part,” he said.
It’s a frustrating situation for Mogannam. He quoted young diners who frequently receive coronavirus tests, or those who have antibodies and may want to dine indoors.
“It will be strange to see where the city will be in five years,” he said. “I don’t know if my business will even be here to see it.”
Serena Dai contributed to the coverage.
Janelle Bitker and Justin Phillips are contributors to the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @janellebitker