After a new, color-coded system launched by the state of California Friday said that dine-in restaurants were open in San Francisco, local restaurateurs (and reporters) contacted SF officials to see when indoor dining would be allowed to reopen. But at a press event Tuesday, Dr. Grant Colfax, the Director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH), said that the city doesn’t have a plan to reopen city dining rooms any time soon, citing the fact that, for now, sit-down, indoor dining still poses too many risks.
During the press event, Mayor London Breed announced that — if all goes well — activities like hotels and tourism could resume by mid-September, indoor personal services like tattoos and piercing could resume by the end of the month, and at least some schools might reopen in October. Restaurants were not mentioned at all during the list of business sectors that could reopen, nor were they in a press release that went out during the media event recapping the reopening news. (You can read that press release in full, here.)
When the question and answer period arrived, Eater SF asked why restaurants didn’t seem to be part of the roadmap for recovery, especially since the state previously said they could reopen as of Monday. According to Colfax (his response begins at the 45:10 mark, below), “if you look at the pieces we’ve released today, they really fall into the buckets of the lower-risk activities ... there are a number things [about indoor dining] that are concerning there.”
At that point, Colfax interrupted himself to point out that outdoor dining and takeout are open, saying with a smile “certainly there are opportunities there.” (Most restauranteurs in San Francisco might disagree, but we digress.) “Indoor dining might be in a later date at this point, because of the risk that is entailed, people sitting down for long periods of time, in crowded quarters and in the indoors, taking off masks.”
Those factors, Colfax says, “contribute to the decision to push indoor dining into a later date.” However, he says “I certainly miss going to restaurants, and if we all do our part, I think we’d all be thrilled to see indoor dining coming online in the future.”
It’s a response that disappointed the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, leaders from which have told Eater SF that since state officials announced that indoor dining was allowed in the city, the local restaurant industry has been flooded with a mixture of hope and confusion. In a statement, the restaurant lobby tells Eater SF that “we are very disappointed that the Dr. Colfax was unwilling or unable to communicate a timeline for a return to indoor dining,” as “our industry is in a horrible financial state and we continue to struggle to survive.”
“We expect our leaders to be able to communicate even bad news so that our restaurant owners, operators and chefs can make critical decisions that affect their and their families livelihoods,” the statement reads. “We continue to offer to work with the city and leaders to help identify ways to safely move faster to some modified indoor dining status.”