By Betty Yu

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — The two blocks of Valencia Street in San Francisco’s Mission District which have been closed to car traffic have been a popular dining attraction this past summer. Friday was the first real test of people’s willingness to eat outdoors on a cold night.

The dinner crowd was thinner than usual but a fair number of people still ventured out wearing fall jackets and beanies.

“Little chilly — we got some hot sake going here — but it’s been very nice,” said Isabel Wickliffe of San Francisco. “A little cold. Definitely will get out my mittens next time and maybe wear a stronger coat.”

Family-owned Mexican restaurant Puerto Alegre said business is down about 35% compared to last Friday. Its manager said they have been unable to get heat lamps because of a shortage and, currently, the restaurant doesn’t have the benefit of a sidewalk parklet.

“We’re not sure how it’s going to go as we head into winter,” said Lorenzo Vigil, manager of Puerto Alegre. “Even if you have parklets or tops, are people going to come out when it’s raining? In San Francisco, when you get rain coming down, it blows with wind so you’re still going to get people that don’t want to come out.”

West of Pecos is also not optimistic diners will turn out when it rains but it does have a parklet and is hoping to install some type of canopy to protect from the elements.

In the meantime, it’s relying on indoor dining as temperatures drop. Indoor restaurant seating is currently limited in San Francisco to 25% capacity.

“Due to everything that’s going on and Covid, to-go apps and takeout, delivery has been very beneficial for a lot of the restaurants here,” said West of Pecos manager Carly Witham.

The live music and atmosphere were still a draw for some diners to eat outdoors Friday evening.

“I feel pretty good, it’s kind of warm for me, I’m visiting from Seattle,” said Taylor Carter. “I think it’s still warm enough. A lot of the restaurants have heaters and things like that. You just have to wear a poofy jacket and you’re usually pretty good.”

Many diners also chose to brave the chillier temperatures because they felt it was safer than indoor dining during the pandemic.

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