SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — After Friday night, diners in San Francisco will temporarily be unable to eat indoors as rising COVID-19 cases force health officials to roll back some reopenings.
Earlier this week, city leaders said a 250 percent spike in COVID cases since October would require renewed restrictions on indoor activities to help reduce the spread.
The temporary indoor dining ban starts at midnight Friday. Fitness centers and movie theaters will have to operate at reduce capacity and high schools that haven’t opened will remain closed for indoor instruction.
Many restaurants complained the ban is a big step backward. They said removing the indoor dining option will result in massive layoffs and likely lead to even more permanent restaurant closures.
In the Mission District on Friday afternoon, many people took their food to go. Those who stayed decided to put on hats and jackets to brave the drizzle while eating outside.
“I like being outside and I think it’s safer for people to be outside at the moment,” said customer Julia Robertson as she sat at a sidewalk table.
For the past few weeks, San Francisco were allowing indoor dining of up to 25 percent capacity.
“Most of our employees are like family. I mean, we’ve had them for such a long time. And we were happy to have brought them back, to be able to bring a number of them back,” said Patricia Vigil, owner of Puerto Alegre Restaurant on Valencia Street. “We weren’t able to bring all of them back. And that was hard. And now, you know, possibly having to let them go again is heart-wrenching.”
“The sales go down, obviously I have to cut the labor,” said We Be Sushi owner Andy Tonozuka.
Tonozuka owns two sushi restaurants in the Mission. He said the indoor dining ban kept him from reopening the second location. He didn’t think it would make financial sense.
“I called them earlier and said don’t come today, ‘I don’t need you,'” said Miguel Ramirez, who owns Los Amigos Restaurant.
Ramirez said he was trying to avoid laying people off. So he was cutting worker’s hours.
He called the ban a double whammy as he was already dealing with the winter weather impacting outdoor dining before the indoor dining ban.
“Most people, they don’t want to sit outside at nighttime because it’s too cold,” said Ramirez.
The Golden Gate Restaurant Association’s executive director Laurie Thomas said indoor dining had offered some hope of survival for struggling businesses.
“Without it, we will definitely all lose money and decide to close, and some of us, that will have to be permanent,” said Thomas.
She said she is asking the mayor to provide financial help to San Francisco restaurants since it’s unlikely they will get federal stimulus money this year.
“If we don’t work, how are we going to pay bills? The government or the city is not going to give us a check,” said Luis Rodriguez, who works at Los Amigos Restaurant.
Over at the House of Prime Rib, the owner was prepared to lay off most of the 60 employees he had just recently brought back. The restaurant doesn’t have outdoor dining.
“I have to tell them they can’t come to work tomorrow. And it’s the hardest thing to do,” said Josef Betz. “We are still open for takeout. So we still have a couple of people here.”
The city has not provided a timeline on how long the temporary indoor dining ban will last.