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San Francisco holds off on permitting indoor restaurant dining

Officials have not said when dine-in service might resume, frustrating local restaurants.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Despite getting a go-ahead from the state to reopen restaurant dining rooms, San Francisco officials have decided to keep indoor dining suspended indefinitely, frustrating one of the nation’s most celebrated markets.

Civic leaders said the city still faces considerable risk of a COVID-19 flare-up and that they’ve decided to be cautious in allowing businesses to reopen, despite the more liberal approach of the state. San Francisco County was one of 19 that were permitted as of Monday by California Gov. Gavin Newsom to permit the resumption of dine-in restaurant service on a limited basis as of Monday. But Mayor London Breed and Director of Health Grant Colfax said Tuesday that they would prefer to allow certain outdoor activities to resume—things like swimming, hair cutting and massages—before they turn their attention to indoor commerce.  

Colfax sketched out a reopening plan that extends into November. Indoor restaurant dining was not mentioned as one of the activities likely to be permitted by that time.

“We remain committed to making decisions based on data and our local conditions with COVID-19, and our next steps take a balanced and thoughtful approach to reopening,” commented Breed.

The move did not please the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, a trade group that represents local restaurateurs and their employees.

“We are very disappointed that Dr. Colfax was unwilling or unable to communicate a timeline for a return to indoor dining,” the association said in a statement issued to Restaurant Business. “Our industry is in a horrible financial state and we continue to struggle to survive. We expect our leaders to be able to communicate even bad news so that our restaurant owners, operators and chefs can make critical decisions that affect their and their families’ livelihoods.”

The situation echoes what’s happening on the other side of the continent in New York City. Operators there are expressing similar frustration with the unwillingness of Mayor Bill de Blasio to permit a resumption of indoor table service or at least provide a plan for when operators can expect to reopen dining rooms. De Blasio has indicated that a resumption of indoor dining might not happen until sometime in 2021.

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