Kevin Lynch drinks a beer in the Columbus Cafe outdoor parklet in North Beach in March. City officials will soon allow bars to reopen for indoor service. (Jordi Molina/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Kevin Lynch drinks a beer in the Columbus Cafe outdoor parklet in North Beach in March. City officials will soon allow bars to reopen for indoor service. (Jordi Molina/Special to S.F. Examiner)

SF to allow bars to reopen indoors next week with expected move into yellow tier

San Francisco plans to allow bars to reopen indoors next week for the first time since March 2020 as well as ease restrictions on other activities as it makes an expected move into the state’s least restrictive COVID-19 yellow tier.

Bars would be able to reopen beginning next Friday at 25% capacity with a maximum of 100 patrons, Dr. Susan Philip, San Francisco’s acting health officer, said Thursday. Previously, bars could only be open if they also served meals when indoor dining was allowed at restaurants.

Philip said patrons in bars must be seated at tables, not walking around, “for this first phase of indoor bars.” Food service would no longer be required.

For outdoor dining, The City will do away with the mask requirement but tables must remain six feet apart. Those who have yet been vaccinated are still recommended to wear masks when outdoor dining.

The capacity of indoor dining will remain at 50%, but there’s no longer a cap on a maximum of 200 persons. And there would no longer be a household limit per table.

Additionally, restaurants can start to offer buffets or self-service items like sushi boats or self-service yogourt.

Offices would be allowed to operate at 50% capacity, up from the current 25%, but the state still recommends those who can telecommute continue to do so. Fully vaccinated workers do not count toward the capacity limit.

San Francisco has been hoping to move into the yellow tier since early April, but the number of new daily COVID cases did not drop as expected.

The City has an average of 33 new COVID-19 cases daily. In the worst of the pandemic surges, The City saw a high of 373 daily new cases.

“We are at a low and stable number of cases per day,” Philip said. “We are very happy about that.”

Hospitalizations have declined with 21 COVID-19 patients receiving care in hospitals and 10 in intensive care.

On March 23, San Francisco moved into the orange tier, the state’s second least restrictive tier. With the move, The City opened up downtown offices with some limits, along with outdoor bars and festivals. In-person attendance at San Francisco Giants games resumed at limited capacity, as it did for Warriors games at Chase Center.

Of the state’s 58 counties, 41 are in the orange tier, 13 are in the second most restrictive red tier and four are in the least restrictive yellow tier. Other counties expect to move into the yellow tier next week including Los Angeles.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has previously said he expects to lift all the tier restrictions by June 15. However, Philip said that that date is “not a magical switch that will get us back to normal.”

“We are going to have to slowly and gradually move toward reopening,” she said.

The concern is that lifting restrictions too quickly could trigger a rise in cases.

Vaccinations are proving effective against the virus. Seventy percent of residents aged 16 or older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, about 540,190 people. Forty-six percent have received both doses.

Mayor London Breed celebrated the vaccination numbers on Twitter Wednesday.

“Only 0.7% of our COVID tests are coming back positive,” Breed wrote. “We’re nearing the end of this pandemic and we’re going to keep up the pace until we get there.”

San Francisco has not yet relaxed its outdoor mask requirements, despite new rules issued this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that say vaccinated people do not need to wear them outdoors unless they are in large crowds.

Philip said that The City intends to, but is waiting on the California Department of Public Health to change its own rules since they cannot impose lesser restrictions than the state. Newsom had said Tuesday that “we are moving to align California’s guidance with these common-sense updates.” The new mask rules are expected soon.

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