SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — The coronavirus economic disaster has landed squarely on the service industry. So what can be done to mitigate a crisis that has already forced some restaurants to close for good?
Often with hugs and kisses, the Nozzolino family has been welcoming guests into their cozy North Beach restaurant Franchino since 1989.
“(Diners) shared food or, they had some wine left over, they shared with the next table,” said Josephine Nozzolino. “People came here for family, for friends, for something different than being in a place where people don’t know you.”
The pandemic, the Nozzolinos say, has left them no choice but to end that run.
“A big reason why we realized that it would be difficult to continue, other than pure economics, was how do we even do that,” explains Maria Nozzolino. “How do we give the same experience?” The family says the business landscape was already challenging. They do not expect that to change.
“For us, it was kind of a perfect storm of events that happened,” Maria Nozzolino said. “But I think it’s part and parcel of what most San Francisco small businesses are going to be facing when they do reopen.”
“When we reopen we will only be able to do it at less than 50% capacity,” said Craig Stoll, owner of Pizzeria Delfina. “So any space we can get outside would be really helpful.”
Stoll is anxiously awaiting the chance to reopen and he’s among those pushing the city to give restaurants a little more room. He happens to have some right outside his front door.
“We have the parklet but, currently, we are not allowed to serve guests out there,” Stoll said. “Even if we were, they wouldn’t be able to drink beer or wine or cocktails.”
“If everybody can work together, I think we can make this happen pretty quickly,” said Laurie Thomas with the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. She sees potential seating in any number of places.
“Seating out into perhaps some streets if we could agree on some closure timing, things like that,” Thomas said. “Seating out into public spaces, parks or, perhaps, like Union Square.”
But, for every potential option, there will be layers of complexity.
“Certainly the MTA, maybe some zoning,” Thomas said. “The tables and chairs permit, which is under DPW.”
The question becomes: how quickly can all of that be resolved?
“You know, small businesses can’t afford to run a deficit,” Thomas said. “We are not the federal government.”
For now, restaurants can only wait to see what future rules bring and whether they pencil out, having already lost much — if not all — of their business.
“When we are allowed to reopen, we need to know what to do and what we’re allowed to do,” Stoll said. “And we need to plan for it now.”
Mayor London Breed’s office says they are looking at possible ways to address the capacity issue and are trying to come up with some formal plans.