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Half of the Bay Area’s Restaurant Staffers Say They’re Scared to go Back to Work

Also: a lawsuit against Yelp moves forward, and more news to know today

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Restaurant workers say that they’re scared to work, but can’t afford to quit
Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images

Welcome to p.m. Intel, your midday roundup of Bay Area food and restaurant news from publications near and far. Tips are always welcome, drop them here.

  • About half of the restaurant staffers surveyed by worker advocacy group the Bay Area Restaurant Opportunities Center say that they feel unsafe at work during the pandemic, KTVU reports. Their concerns range from worries at having to be an enforcer of politically-divided rules like mask use and social distancing, to fears that the shift to indoor dining will increase their chances of COVID-19 infection. It’s a situation that leaves them feeling “trapped because they probably can’t collect unemployment if they quit.” A restaurant manager in Contra Costa County puts it plainly, saying “restaurants should be the last thing to open ... takeout, delivery, it’s fine. Outdoor dining is fine. But I think indoor dining should not be, in my opinion, available until we have rapid testing, or a vaccine available.”
  • San Francisco’s Economic Recovery Task Force released a 41-recommendation report Thursday, which you can read in full here. Suggestions include an extension of the Shared Spaces outdoor dining program for three years, but everything in this report is just a suggestion, so don’t assume that just because the group asked for it that it shall be done. After the report was released, however, Mayor London Breed announced (among other things) a $1.6 million grant program, which will hand “$2,000 to $5,000 to 340 small businesses for fixtures and design services to safely reopen.” That’s not much, but it’s something.
  • A lawsuit against SF-based reviews company Yelp can move forward, the First District Court of Appeals ruled this week. The SF Chronicle reports that Yelp’s practice of secretly recording ad sales calls might be illegal, so SF attorney Eric Gruber’s claim that the company violated the California Invasion of Privacy Act can return to court.
  • Corey Lee, the chef behind upscale spots like Benu and Monsieur Benjamin, tells the SF Business Times that “fine dining restaurants in San Francisco have a better opportunity to be sustainable than a mid-casual level restaurant,” as “there’s a dining culture that really appreciates restaurants in a different way than somewhere like London or New York.”
  • Alameda County home cooks remain on edge, Berkeleyside reports, as users of crank-amplifying app Nextdoor are allegedly hustling to report pandemic pop-ups that are operating without permits.
  • Menlo Park-based Bespoken Spirits tells CNN that it can “make top-shelf whiskey in just a few days,” using “a proprietary technology to rapidly produce custom whiskey.” The company scored $2.6 million in seed funding this week, from former NY Yankee Derek Jeter, among others.
  • If you’re still figuring out where you stand on Prop 22, the ballot measure to decide if food app delivery workers should be classified as employees or contractors, this is the best-balanced and most concise description of its pros and cons I’ve seen. [SF Business Times]
  • Outer Sunset-based Basque-Mexican pop-up Chula and the Crocodile is “super creative and different, comforting but with crazy ingredients,” says David Ruiz, the owner of Mission District bar Junior’s. [SF Chronicle]

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