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SF’s Indoor Dining Rules: Televisions Forbidden, Employee ‘De-Escalation’ Training Mandatory

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San Francisco’s restaurant dining rooms are open for business

Fans Watch The UEFA Champions League Final
San Francisco sports bars and restaurants that reopen for indoor service may not turn on their TV sets — one of many rules set forth by city officials
Photo by Horacio Villalobos#Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

As of September 30, San Francisco is open for indoor dining, with a capacity limit of 25 percent and a maximum of 100 people. Of course, to reopen, restaurants must comply with a 12-page rulebook issued by the city’s Department of Public Health Wednesday morning.

There are a number of requirements and prohibitions to note, especially if you’re a restauranteur or a diner concerned about only visiting spots that follow every single rule. The entire guidance document is embedded below, but here are some of the most interesting aspects to note:

24-hour diners are forbidden

Food and beverage service must end at midnight, though “patrons may stay and finish their meal until 12:30 a.m.,” the guidance reads. “At 12:30 a.m. indoor dining spaces must be closed to the public.” Insert your best Cinderella joke here.

Lingering over drinks is out

“A two-hour limit for indoor dining is required,” the guidance says.

Forget about watching TV as you drink or dine

“Entertainment is not permitted indoors at this time. This includes live entertainment or televisions, or other types of screens.” Presumably, this does not apply to the family dining next to you — long-suffering parents who can only grab a bite if their children are entertained with iPads. But adults have to make do with conversation with a companion...or will just stare at their phones, or (kids, ask your parents) read a book. But those big screen TVs and projectors must remain dark, so if you’re looking to watch a game and drink a beer, do it outside or at home.

Tableside prep is out

The House of Prime Rib’s salad preparation show, for example, is such a delight for patrons who seek to understand how the beets are dressed. But if the restaurant reopens its dining room, that salad will emerge from the kitchen fully prepared, as “Tableside preparation or presentation of food tableside is prohibited.”

When your server asks your name, it’s not because they’re feeling extra chummy

Restaurants must “ask patrons to voluntarily provide a contact name and phone number for their group for possible contact tracing” and must also “keep this information on file for at least 3 weeks.” If you’re a diner who wants to remain incognito, that’s allowed, though, as “patrons are not required to provide contact information.”

Similarly, “How are you?” is more than a pleasantry

“Eating establishments must verbally screen all patrons upon entry with the questions about COVID-19 symptoms and exposure to COVID-19,” the guidance reads. Here’s the list of questions they’ll ask you. And, guess what? Whatever joke answer you’re thinking about making isn’t unique, nor is it funny. Abstain.

Servers will do double duty as a hall monitor slash social worker

The folks who bring us our food have always worn multiple hats, as allergen compliance officers, camp counselors, mediators between patron and kitchen, alcohol over-serving monitor, and so on. Now add to that list crisis interventionist, as restaurants must now train personnel in de-escalation techniques to use when confronted with “patrons who do not comply with policies,” such as the courses available here.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, as many more of the rules are available in the document below. It’s enough, perhaps, that some restaurants might opt out of reopening for indoor service for now. Speaking with Eater SF. Evan Bloom, the co-founder of popular Jewish deli mini-chain Wise Sons, for example, says that his restaurant will not reopen for indoor service any time soon. “I am not eating inside restaurants, and I wouldn’t be comfortable working in a restaurant with an open dining room,” he said. “And if I’m not comfortable with that, I can’t ask my staff to do it, either.”

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