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Tenderloin Streets Close to Cars, Transforming Into a Gigantic Outdoor Dining Space

Restaurants across the Tenderloin will spill out onto the street every Thursday-Sunday

This scene on Valencia Street could soon be replaced in the Tenderloin, as streets in the neighborhood will close for outdoor dining every Thursday through Sunday
Patricia Chang

After months of work by neighborhood groups and political officials, several restaurants in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood will soon spill out beyond their smattering of sidewalk-bound tables and chairs, taking over area streets with expansive outdoor dining setups where cars used to speed through.

According to Honey Mahogany, a legislative aide to District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney (who represents the Tenderloin), the street closure will begin on Thursday, September 24 and will run Thursdays through Sundays from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., with restaurants moving into the roads from noon to 7 p.m. daily. The “long awaited” shutdown was a joint effort from Haney, the Tenderloin Merchants Association, Tenderloin Community Benefits District, and the Office of Economic and Workforce Development. It comes about two months after similar closures were approved on Valencia Street and in Chinatown (the first SF streets to close completely to allow socially-distanced dining) and follows similar plans to close roads in the Castro and Hayes Valley.

The Tenderloin, which is the city’s densest neighborhood and has long been known as one of the city’s most fiercely belovedand challenged — areas, has faced a new level of scrutiny during the pandemic. Area restaurateurs participated in a lawsuit accusing the city of allowing tent encampments to expand and media coverage of drug dealing in the area so incensed Zuni chef Nate Norris that he took to the restaurant’s Instagram account to call out reporters for alleged racial and anti-poverty bias.

But “after decades of neglect,” Haney’s office says in a statement, “the Tenderloin is finally receiving the attention it deserves as the city has begun to reinvest in the neighborhood,” with this effort as an example.

According to a new website from the Tenderloin Merchants Association, as part of the Tenderloin Outdoor Dining initiative, Larkin Street will close completely between Eddy and Ellis Streets and Ellis and O’Farrell Streets, while Golden Gate Avenue will close for one block between Larkin and Hyde Streets. Participating restaurants include long-standing vegan destination Golden Era, Vietnamese classic Turtle Tower, and nascent Tenderloin food hall La Cocina, among many, many others.

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