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Everything You Need to Know About San Francisco’s Coronavirus Curfew

Questions and answers for San Francisco’s diners (and everyone else)

Melburnians Adjust To Normal Life Post COVID-19 Lockdown
Outdoor dining is still allowed during daylight hours, but a new curfew means that diners must depart by 10 p.m. every night.
Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

After news of California’s curfew spread via tweet Thursday, November 19, state residents were left with more questions than answers. Does the order mean that restaurants need to close in time to get their workers home by 10 p.m.? What if I need something from the grocery store after curfew? Is my Uber Eats delivery driver going to get in trouble if she’s on the road with my food one minute after 10 p.m.?

These questions grew more imperative for San Francisco’s residents over Thanksgiving weekend, when county officials announced that the city would fall under the curfew order as of November 30. So did San Mateo County, and Marin County is also on the brink. Here’s everything you need to know about what is and isn’t allowed in California, under its new stay-at-home order.

What counties in California are under curfew?

All the counties that are currently in the purple (“widespread” risk of infection) tier of reopening must follow the curfew. In the Bay Area, that’s every county but Marin, and across the state, 51 of California’s 58 counties are currently in the most restrictive tier. (You can search by county name here.

What are the dates and times of the curfew?

The order began statewide at 10 p.m. on Saturday, November 21, and will run daily from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. until December 21. It “may be extended or revised as needed,” the order says. For San Francisco and San Mateo counties, which joined the purple tier on November 28, the curfew begins on November 30 at 10 p.m.

What times do restaurants have to close?

In the areas under curfew, all patrons (who must be outdoors, since the purple tier forbids open dining rooms) must leave the dining area by 10 p.m. And this isn’t in the order, but needs to be said: Diners shouldn’t make a fuss about this. There isn’t a single restaurant that relishes the idea of losing a couple hours of service, these days, but if you linger and whine, you’re making things feel more impossible for them. Arrive early, leave on time, tip generously.

I work at a restaurant, do I need to get home and off the streets by 10?

No. The order specifically says that “nothing in this order prevents any number of persons from the same household from leaving their residence, lodging, or temporary accommodation, as long as they do not engage in any interaction with (or otherwise gather with) any number of persons from any other household, except as specifically permitted herein.” So, if you’re heading home from work after 10 p.m., you’re fine. If you get off work and go to a party, you’re in violation.

Does the curfew mean that if I’m hungry after 10 p.m., I have to make do until 5 a.m.?

No. Essential businesses are allowed to remain open, and you’re allowed to go to them to pick up items you need. You can find a full list of what California deems essential here, but for our purposes, that means places like grocery stores, corner stores, and “other retail that sells food or beverage products” may remain open. “Restaurant carry-out and quick serve food operations, including food preparation, carry-out and delivery,” are also allowed. So, basically, everything but outdoor dining is still on the table, and you will not miss a meal because of this order.

So, if you can still do all these things, what’s the point?

Here’s what the order says: “This Limited Stay at Home Order will reduce opportunities for disease transmission with the goal of decreasing the number of hours individuals are in the community and mixing with individuals outside of their household,” because “every intervention to decrease mixing of households is critical.”

But COVID-19 isn’t nocturnal, so why 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.?

Again, from the order: “activities conducted during 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. are often non-essential and more likely related to social activities and gatherings that have a higher likelihood of leading to reduced inhibition and reduced likelihood to adhere to COVID-19 preventive measures (e.g., wearing face coverings and maintaining physical distance).” Reading between the lines, it seems like they’re speaking specifically about alcohol and drinking, both at outdoor dining situations and at private gatherings outside one’s household.

How are they going to enforce this thing?

That’s up to the individual counties, and so far, none have made any big announcements on crackdowns. Sgt. Michael Low with the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Office tells ABC 7 that they expect “voluntary compliance,” but says that “the curfew will be another tool our deputies can use to enforce the law, however our primary focus will be on more serious crimes in the community.”