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What It’s Like to Open a Restaurant in San Francisco During the Coronavirus Crisis

Also: Emeryville restaurateur/NFL legend Marshawn Lynch joins the “Westworld” cast, and more news to start your day

A spread of dishes at Reem’s in the Mission Patricia Chang

Bay Area restaurateur Reem Assil opened a new location of her bakery on San Francisco’s bustling Mission Street on March 11, but less than a week later, the city has basically shut down.

Reem Assil’s move into the former Mission Pie space at 2901 Mission Street was one of the city’s most anticipated openings of the spring (literally), a long-awaited return of the Palestinian-Syrian star chef to the neighborhood in which she began her career. Reem’s opened on March 11, prompting Eater SF to write that the venue is “a bright and airy cafe space; the city’s first proper Arab bakery; and, probably for many Arab Americans and fans of chef Reem Assil’s cooking, a destination restaurant.”

That was March 11. On March 16, as one of course knows, six Bay Area counties including San Francisco ordered all residents to stay home except for “essential” trips. Restaurants may remain open, but must pivot to delivery and takeout only. Reem’s “bright and airy cafe space” must remain empty until at least April 7 under the order, and she tells Eater’s Monica Burton that for now, the spot will do takeout and “delivery only with very limited hours,” but might have to eliminate takeout. “We’re taking it day by day,” she says.

However, it wasn’t until last Wednesday that Assil even realized how dire things might get, and she braced for a “quiet opening” as she assumed that “people are not really going out that much.” However, “we had a very busy first three days — so busy we couldn’t even handle it.” Now, Assil says, “our whole reason for existence is to provide community space and build community and it’s just such a weird time to be doing that. But I have hope we can build our community virtually for now. Once we all get through this it’s going to be stronger and better.” You can read Assil’s full interview with Burton here.

And in other news...

  • Redwood City-based faux meat company Impossible Foods announced Monday that it’s secured an additional $500 million in funding. The new cash will help it “double production every year, on average, for 15 years,” CEO Pat Brown said, and CFO David Lee said that the business is “built to withstand short-term shocks” like the current coronavirus crisis. [SF Business Times]
  • Here’s a running list of which chain restaurants, grocers, and delivery services are putting public health first by instituting paid sick leave during novel coronavirus pandemic. [Eater National]
  • NFL great slash Emeryville restaurateur Marshawn Lynch appeared on the season premiere of Westworld Sunday. The Rob Ben’s owner appeared as G, a criminal gig-worker in a mood-LED shirt, and if that doesn’t drive Yul Brenner out of your head what will? [The Undefeated]
  • The James Beard Foundation has postponed the March 25 announcement of the finalists for its 2020 awards, honors for which many Bay Area folks and businesses are in contention. [Eater National]
  • Among the many measures being proposed during the shelter-in-place period, SF-based State Senator Scott Wiener is pushing for a ban on evictions of businesses like bars and restaurants during the ongoing public health emergency. [Curbed SF]
  • Proper Hotel pastry chef Sohrob Esmaili is a contender on Food Network competition show Spring Baking Championship, which kicked off its season just last week. [SF Examiner]
  • “America’s restaurant industry has never seen a crisis on this scale before,” writes Hillary Dixler Canavan, and many restaurants are already reporting that “delivery hasn’t kept pace with the loss of in-person customers.” [Eater National]
  • Millbrae’s Hu Bei Restaurant is the only spot in the Bay Area that serves the cuisine of Wuhan, an area now known to all as the epicenter of the new coronavirus epidemic. Owner Nina Wei is now running the business with a single staffer, “even hand-delivering meals” to those who seek her home-style meals. [SF Chronicle]
  • “The idea of ordering food delivery may raise a couple of questions,” writes Jenny G. Zhang. “First, is it safe? Second, is it ethical to expose a delivery worker to the risks you seek to avoid?” [Eater National]