Restaurants in San Francisco may be allowed to begin serving food indoors by the end of this month if The City’s COVID-19 case count continues to decline. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Breed says limited indoor dining to resume if COVID-19 data improves

Restaurants could open for limited indoor dining as early as the end of this month if the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to decrease, city officials announced Friday.

The restaurant industry has asked for weeks to reopen indoor dining or at least to get more clarity about when that may happen as San Francisco’s business reopening resumed this month.

An earlier reopening timeline announced by Mayor London Breed and Dr. Grant Colfax, head of the Department of Public Health, was silent about when indoor dining might be allowed.

Breed said Friday that The City would allow for limited indoor dining as soon as the state reclassifies San Francisco from its current “red” status to “orange.”

“Orange” status “will occur no sooner than the end of the month,” and depends on The City’s positivity rate and number of cases per 100,000 people, she said.

“Restaurants have been hit hard by COVID-19. Many have adapted with takeout and outdoor dining, but they’ve still been barely hanging on and, sadly, some have closed for good,” Breed said in a statement. “We are laying out the next steps to make sure restaurants are ready to reopen as safely as possible.”

Once The City achieves the “orange” status, the plan is to allow for indoor dining at 25 percent of the restaurant’s capacity up to 100 people.

San Francisco’s current “red” status does allow indoor dining, but city officials have said they plan to reopen at their own pace and not allow activities just because the state may allow them.

Laurie Thomas, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, said the “announcement brings hope to our San Francisco restaurants and the thousands of workers who need these jobs.”

“The past six months have caused so much pain and financial hardship for many,” she said in a statement. “Having a clear and safe path to move forward with indoor dining, even at a limited capacity, will mean restaurants have the chance to reopen and/or see a way to not have to close.”

The association said in a statement that “The GGRA formed a working team who held several meetings during the past few weeks with city leaders to underscore the mounting financial impact the restaurant industry and its employees are suffering from, even with the allowance of outdoor dining.”

Restaurants would need to complete a self-certification of compliance with required minimum standards for indoor dining before they could reopen. The process and standards remain under discussion.

Health officers Tomas Aragon said that The City is taking a “measured approach to reopening” and that “science clearly tells us that indoor activities come with additional risk.”

“We must work with the restaurants and business owners to implement strong safety protocols that help mitigate this additional risk and protect the safety of our employees, customers, and the community,” he said.

There’s no guarantee about reaching the “orange” status.

“The earliest that San Francisco will move to the less restrictive ‘orange’ tier is at the end of September,” the city announcement said. “However, if local COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations do not remain stable, San Francisco may not meet the criteria of the orange tier and will remain in the red tier.”

The average number of newly diagnosed cases of COVID-19 had declined to 55 as of Friday, from 71 on Sep. 1. Hospitalizations were at 66, a downward trend from a recent high of 76 on Sept. 13.

Hotels were allowed to reopen this month already along with indoor personal services like barbershops and nail salons. The City is expected to grant permission for private kindergarten to sixth grade schools to open on Monday.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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