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It’s Only Been a Week Since the Bay Area Restaurant World Ground to a Halt

Also: An SF bakery rolls out ‘quarantine’ cakes, and more news to start your day

The best way to save your favorite restaurant might be to stay at home
Xinhua/Wu Xiaoling via Getty Images

It’s hard to believe that it’s been only a week since the Bay Area issued its order for residents to shelter in place.

Though folks who follow local bar and restaurant news knew that concerns about the new coronavirus (COVID-19) would have an impact on the industry, it’s unlikely that most expected that efforts to stem the tide of the illness would include a temporary closure of bars and dining rooms across the state.

Restaurants have shown admirable agility in the face of the crisis, pivoting to takeout and delivery models to keep some revenue flowing, even as they lay off slews of staffers in an attempt to stay afloat. The industry has mobilized to demand support from local government, but with rent due at the end of the month, everyone is on edge, worried about their business, their own health, and the state of the world.

It’s impossible to say what’s going to happen next — and anyone who says they have it figured out is likely selling something. What we do know is this: As of Tuesday morning, there are 886 reported cases of coronavirus in the Bay Area, the SF Chronicle reports, and in a press briefing Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said that social distancing rules like the ones the state is under now could last for a while.

“We are looking the next eight weeks, on our curve, maybe the next eight to 12 weeks, to address this surge,” Newsom said, but as noted by the East Bay Times, he didn’t specify if that meant a continuation of the stay home order or bar and dining room closures currently at play.

Also speaking Monday, San Francisco Public Health Chief Dr. Grant Colfax said that “the worst is yet to come” when it comes to local infection rates, SF Gate reports, as transmission trends in places “where the virus has taken hold has seen a surge in coronavirus patients who need to be hospitalized. We expect that to happen in San Francisco in a week or two or perhaps less.” At the same event, UCSF professor of epidemiology Dr. Jeffrey Martin said that “A peak means it goes down. I would expect in 10 to 14 days if people are complying, then things would indeed begin to go down.”

Let’s extrapolate from that, then. Above and beyond the public health responsibilities we all have to avoid spreading the disease, it appears that by socially isolating as much as possible, area residents will be actively helping local bars and restaurants, as those businesses won’t be able to reopen until transmission rates are down. GoFundMes and gift cards are admirable, but perhaps the best thing Bay Area residents can do to help the local food industry — as strange as it feels to write this — is to stay the fuck at home.

And in other news...

  • Those scrambling for dinner ideas might want to check out the best cookbooks of spring, 2020 — the list includes offerings from Bay Area favorites like Wise Sons and Boba Guys. [Eater National]
  • SF bakery Butter& is pivoting to quarantine cakes. Owner Amanda Nguyen says that “business is booming,” KPIX writes, and “last week was her busiest week ever.” [KPIX]
  • California is asking the federal government, which oversees SNAP (aka “food stamps,” which in CA is known as CalFresh), to allow recipients to use their benefits for online food ordering, which has previously been prohibited. As many SNAP users are in groups vulnerable to COVID-19, this will help them remain indoors and avoid infection, officials say. [SF Chronicle]
  • The Ingleside’s Ocean Ale House has typically been a neighborhood gathering place. Now it’s finding a way to keep people connected even though isolation is the rule of the day. [Ingleside Light]
  • From canceled dinner plans to delivery app downloads, data reveals how COVID-19 has brutalized restaurants. [Eater National]
  • Northern California’s James Beard Award semi-finalists have way more pressing matters on their minds these days, as do the James Beard folks, themselves. The organization postponed its awards over a week ago, and says that it hasn’t even had time to winnow down contenders to the finalist round. [Family Meal]
  • Restaurants and bars that board up their windows are typically censured in SF, as local codes forbid the move as violations of “fenestration and transparency” rules. Those regulations won’t be enforced during the shelter-in-place period, city officials say, but spots that cover their windows “should be mindful of their methods, especially on historic storefronts-facades.” [SF Chronicle]
  • The East Bay Express, an alt-weekly that was once known as one of the region’s most reliable sources for food (and general) news, has been sold. It’s now part of a local paper group called The Weeklys, which includes Santa Cruz’s Good Times, the North Bay Bohemian and the Pacific Sun. [East Bay Times]
  • As noted yesterday, more and more local booze-makers are pivoting to hand sanitizer production. In Fairfield, Heretic Brewing is calling their version “germ juice,” and says its been approved by federal and state officials. [San Jose Mercury News]