Indoor Dining Could Return To SF Next Week, But Will It Be Enough For Struggling Restaurants?

San Francisco restaurants could reopen their dining rooms as soon as next week, which could extend the life of some of the city’s struggling restaurants.

Mayor London Breed announced Friday that indoor dining can resume at 25% capacity once San Francisco moves into the state’s orange or “moderate” COVID-19 risk tier. That could happen by the end of September.

Outdoor dining has been allowed all summer, but that business model has a limited shelf life.

“We’re lucky we’re going to probably have another month of good weather, but the weather change when winter comes, with rain and such, it’s not going to be, you know, viable,” said Laurie Thomas, restaurant owner and executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association.

On its own, reduced indoor capacity is not enough for most restaurants to survive on long-term, but it will help.

“Those of us that have to go and delivery and some outdoor dining revenue coming in, this will be incrementally positive, for sure,” said Thomas. “Assuming there are people that are going to want to come and dine inside in San Francisco, then that would let us give more paid hours to our employees, at a minimum.”

Some may even be able to bring back employees that were laid off.

Thomas says it is important that people behave responsibly in order to keep reducing cases and therefore, reopen businesses. The association is working to, “come up with a sort of ‘Dine Safe, Live Safe,’ campaign to try to just keep reiterating that it’s super important that everybody adhere to the guidelines and is seated and wearing a mask.”

Thomas says the possibility of bringing back indoor dining could put many restaurants on the path to surviving the pandemic.