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San Francisco Restaurant Dining Rooms Will Reopen on September 30

As soon as the city releases its final guidance for restaurants, indoor dining can resume

As of noon on Tuesday, September 29, San Francisco had been ranked “orange” by the state of California — the milestone SF officials say was necessary to allow indoor dining.

As expected, San Francisco’s coronavirus case levels have trended positively enough that, at around noon on Tuesday, September 29, California’s color-coded, county-by-county reopening guide had moved the city from the red level (“substantial” risk of infection) to orange (“moderate” risk of COVID-19 exposure). That change means that San Francisco’s restaurant dining rooms are allowed to open for business on Wednesday, September 30, Mayor London Breed’s office announced this afternoon.

The reopening plan, as announced by SF city officials last week, will allow San Francisco restaurants to open for indoor dining, with a limit of 25 percent of the dining room’s capacity, or a maximum of 100 people. This essentially sees San Francisco reopening one level behind the state mandates: Since August 31, the city has been in the red level, which allows that 25 percent capacity for indoor dining. Citing safety concerns around indoor dining (extended contact, impossibility of mask use while eating or drinking), the city has taken a more cautious approach, as the “orange” level technically allows dining rooms to be 50 percent full, with 200 people total.

Last week, SF’s Department of Public Health (DPH) released a preliminary set of guidelines for restaurants that choose to reopen, saying then that the draft was intended “as a planning tool” and “is designed to give restaurants an idea of what the final guidelines will be, whenever indoor dining is allowed to resume with safety plans in place.”

“Reopening indoor restaurants ... with limited capacity ... are a good step on our road to recovery,” Breed said in a statement. Laurie Thomas, executive director of San Francisco restaurant lobby the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, agrees, saying that “this is an important step in our reopening process.”

But don’t assume that you can plop down in a booth of your favorite diner at 6 a.m. Wednesday. Before reopening is officially allowed, the final version of the DPH’s restaurant reopening guidance must be released. Those regulations won’t be available until tomorrow, Breed’s office says, leaving many restaurateurs on the edge of their seats. “We have been working closely with the city on indoor dining guidelines,” Thomas says, “and are looking forward to the release of that final Department of Health guidance tomorrow.” According to Breed’s office, the capsule version of the rules are as follows:

Starting on Wednesday, September 30, restaurants and bars serving meals can reopen for indoor dining at 25% capacity, up to 100 people. Safety requirements for indoor dining are similar to the existing guidelines for outdoor dining. Face coverings must be worn by personnel and patrons at all times except when the patron is eating or drinking. That includes customers wearing a face covering when ordering, waiting for their order to arrive, or anytime staff is at their table. Restaurants are encouraged to use reservations to help ensure compliance with capacity limits. Under the new health guidance, restaurants must conduct a health check of patrons before they are seated. The health check requirement applies to both indoor and outdoor dining.

But despite this good news, San Franciscans can’t relax yet. According to NBC Bay Area, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that the state is already showing signs of a new wave of COVID-19 infections, with the virus “reproduction number” (a measurement of how many people an infected person spreads the virus to) going up.

“This is, again, what science had predicted,” Newsom said Monday. “If we go back to our original form, if we’re not cautious, if we’re not vigilant, if we’re not wearing our masks, if we’re not practicing social distancing, physical distancing and hand washing and hygiene, these numbers can start to tick back up.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Breed, who said via statement that “the last thing we want to see is a spike in cases and a need to roll back all the progress we’ve made, so we all need to do our part. Please continue to follow the public health guidelines and participate in these activities responsibly so we can continue to move forward together.”