SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – Restaurants across San Francisco were able to open for indoor dining for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday, a highly-anticipated moment in the city’s reopening process.

Inside North Beach’s Sotto Mare, actual diners sat in booths enjoying wine and cioppino for the first time in six months.

Diners at Sotto Mare in San Francisco's North Beach during the first day of indoor dining at 25 percent capacity on September 30, 2020. (CBS)

Diners at Sotto Mare in San Francisco’s North Beach during the first day of indoor dining at 25 percent capacity on September 30, 2020. (CBS)

“We’re very excited to start at least 25 percent because that will increase some revenue we hope which will allow us to sustain this pandemic a little longer and hopefully get through it all. I hope 25 goes to 50 and 50 goes to 100,” said Sotto Mare owner Richie Azzolino.

Across the street at Belle Cora, owner Teague Kiernan has no plans to open inside yet and will stick with serving on his sidewalk and streetside parklet.

“Trying to last this out as long as we can, 25 percent capacity isn’t going to do it, I think at 50 percent capacity it starts to turn into a viable enterprise again,” Kiernan told KPIX 5.

With San Francisco moving into the state’s orange category which allows indoor dining at 25 percent capacity, KPIX 5 asked UC Berkeley infectious disease expert Dr. John Swartzberg if allowed is the same as safe.

Swartzberg said he won’t be eating inside a restaurant just yet.

“Restaurants indoors are far more risky than restaurants outdoors, because indoors, the air is circulating and we don’t know how good the air is being handled in those restaurants. So, they’re not completely safe,” Dr. Swartzberg said via Zoom.

At Waterbar and Epic on the Embarcadero, indoor seating opens Thursday, with the hope COVID-19 cases continue to drop, so indoor dining can rise.

“Twenty-five percent is going to help us with continuing to get to serve outside and then when winter arrives, it’s going to become a different dynamic,” said manager Pete Sittnick.

Comments