Plans to allow indoor dining were indefinitely suspended in July.

San Francisco is moving forward with indoor dining plans, but they won’t be implemented until after the end of September. 

When that time comes, restaurants may allow 25 percent capacity, or up to 100 people. The San Francisco Department of Public Health is coordinating health and safety guidelines with the local restaurant industry to prepare for the reopening. 

In mid-March, the city issued a shelter-in-place order, and restaurants were forced to operate via off-premises until June 12 when outdoor dining was allowed. Indoor dining was supposed to follow in July, but those plans were put on hold indefinitely because of rising COVID cases. 

In late August, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a color-coded tier system that determined a county’s risk level—widespread (purple), substantial (red), moderate (orange), and minimal (yellow)—and what businesses would be allowed under said risk category. The ultimate decision on whether to reopen lies with the individual county. 

San Francisco is in the red category, which does allow indoor dining with limitations. However, the city said it will begin indoor dining once it moves to the orange category, which won’t happen before the end of the month. The city did caution that if COVID cases and hospitalizations don’t remain stable, it may stay in the red category. 

Although San Francisco would be allowed to reopen dining rooms right now under California law, the city said that it “will continue on a reopening path based on its local health indicators and unique challenges and successes of our local reopening.”

“Restaurants have been hit hard by COVID-19. Many have adapted with takeout and outdoor dining, but they’ve still been barely hanging on and, sadly, some have closed for good,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement. “We are laying out the next steps to make sure restaurants are ready to reopen as safely as possible. I want to thank the Golden Gate Restaurant Association for working with us to get to this point. Helping our restaurant industry survive this pandemic is a key part of our longer-term economic recovery.”

San Francisco and the Golden Gate Restaurant Association are developing a self-certification process that will give restaurants accurate information and the necessary tools to prepare for a safe reopening. Prior to opening, operators will have to complete a self-certification to show they can comply with the minimum standards. 

“[Friday’s] announcement brings hope to our San Francisco restaurants and the thousands of workers who need these jobs,” said Laurie Thomas, executive director, Golden Gate Restaurant Association, in a statement. “The past six months have caused so much pain and financial hardship for many. Having a clear and safe path to move forward with indoor dining, even at a limited capacity, will mean restaurants have the chance to reopen and/or see a way to not have to close. We thank the Mayor and her staff, and Dr. Aragón and Dr. Colfax for working with us to make this possible.”

San Francisco is the latest major metro area to announce the return of dining rooms. Earlier in September, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York City may reopen dining rooms on September 30 at 25 percent capacity, along with other guidelines like temperature checks and submitting information for COVID tracing. 

Consumer Trends, Feature