As expected, San Francisco restaurants will reopen indoor dining on Wednesday, March 3, Mayor London Breed announced at a media event held Tuesday. This will be the first time diners are allowed to take a seat inside the city’s restaurants since COVID-19 cases skyrocketed by 250 percent last November, a spike that prompted an eventual shutdown of all service but takeout or delivery. It comes as California health officials confirm that San Francisco has moved from the most-restrictive purple tier of the state’s color-coded reopening plan to the red, which allows indoor dining at 25 percent capacity and a maximum of 100 people.
“I am so proud of San Francisco,” SF health director Dr. Grant Colfax said in a statement. “As we continue to gradually reopen we need to be aware of the risks and to stay vigilant, especially while vaccines remain limited and the growing presence of more contagious variants pose an increased risk of greater community spread.”
According to a statement from Breed’s office, “at this time, San Francisco is averaging 67 new cases a day, which is comparable to where the city was in mid-November before the surge.” The city’s “new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have decreased steadily since the holiday surge that peaked in early January,” the statement says.
Officials are still encouraging diners to keep their seats outdoors, however, and are sweetening the deal with looser restrictions while seated outside. As of 8 a.m. on March 3, outdoor dining areas no longer have any occupancy limits, as long as tables are spaced six feet apart. And each one of those tables can host as many as six folks from three different households, and be occupied into the night: The city’s curfew, which required seated dining and other non-essential activities to cease between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., has been lifted.
Inside, it’s another story: Tables can only contain one household, seating up to four people. Service must cease by 10 p.m. and can’t reopen until 5 a.m. In all cases, current mask laws — which include covering up when servers approach, when headed to the restroom, and any other time one’s not actively eating or drinking — remain in place.
The reopening was greeted with joy from local dining lobby the Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA), but also with a warning. “We appreciate the thoughtful way that the updated guidance looks clearly at the distinctions between indoor and outdoor dining, and provides clear information on both,” the group said in a statement. “We urge our restaurant members and San Francisco residents to follow these regulations, in order to give us the best chance to keep this reopening permanent, as any additional closures will have drastic economic consequences, including temporary and permanent closures.”