In just a few short weeks, news about the coronavirus known as COVID-19 has evolved from a couple of articles about how business in Bay Area Chinatowns has dropped to an issue that has had an impact on everyone's life. While all businesses are facing setbacks, few industries have been hit as hard as restaurants have. Here’s the latest on what the COVID-19 crisis means for restaurants and diners in the Bay Area.
This article will be updated regularly as more information becomes available from Bay Area restaurants, organizations, and officials.
Officials haven’t said that you should stop eating out, as long as you order delivery or takeout
On March 19, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a executive order (read it in full here) that said that all 40 million of the state’s residents must “stay home except for essential needs” as of midnight on Friday, March 20.
California governor Gavin Newsom has directed "a state-wide order for people to stay at home. That directive goes into force and effect this evening." pic.twitter.com/beRjWDp5lO— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) March 20, 2020
The sweeping measure, which does not have an end date, follows his earlier guidance that all bars, wineries, and brewpubs in the state should close and that all restaurant dining rooms should be closed.
The statewide policy reflects orders already in policies already in place across the Bay Area, the region the Governor calls home. On March 16, residents of San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Marin, Contra Costa and Alameda counties were officially ordered to remain home except for essential activities as of midnight on March 17. On March 17, Sonoma County also issued a shelter in place order similar to those in the rest of the region, and Napa County did the same on the 18th, as did Solano County.
Under all these orders, grocery stores (and travel to them) will still be allowed, and restaurants in all seven Bay Area counties and the rest of the state will be allowed to remain open if they offer takeout or delivery and can maintain a six-foot social distance at all times.
Local restaurants are hustling to assure customers that it’s safe to dine out
With the shelter-in-place order, spots that have chosen to remain open are touting increased takeout and delivery offerings. However, restaurants are announcing closures on the fly, so it’s a good idea to confirm that a spot is open before venturing out.
A huge issue is paid sick leave, a benefit that’s rarely (if at all) available to food delivery workers and many front and back-of-the-house employees in local restaurants. Many spots are making an effort (often, via Instagram) to announce their paid sick leave policies and steps they’re taking to avoid transmission. On March 16, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced a $10 million fund called the Workers and Families First Program, which is intended to provide businesses that need it the financial ability to allow workers to take five additional days of paid leave in addition to what that company might already allow.
Bay Area restaurants are doing their best to take care of the community, but many are worried about how they’ll stay in business.
According to San Francisco City Controller Ben Rosenfield, the COVID-19 crisis could cause a hospitality industry downturn similar to the one faced after 9/11, the Chron reports. It’s prompted a drop in tourist business so serious that SF Travel, the organization dedicated to bringing visitors to the city, has started to lay off staff, the SF Business Times reported last week. Bars and restaurants in SF are now calling on the city to provide financial assistance, and legislators say they’re looking at strategies on how to protect the already-struggling industry.
“The problem is, this is something we’ve never seen before and we just don’t know what’s going to happen,” Laurie Thomas, acting director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, tells the East Bay Times. Clay Walker, the president of Gott’s Roadside, tells the SF Business Times that the crisis might be the last straw in an already struggling industry. “There are a lot of San Francisco restaurants teetering anyway...I’m predicting mass closures. Not temporary closures.”