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SF Held Back from Yellow Tier, but Eases a Few Restrictions Next Week

SF is staying in the orange, but outdoor dining goes up to 8 people per table, and the indoor dining curfew is going away

Sidewalk seating at Tacolicious Patricia Chang

Unfortunately, San Francisco is not moving into the yellow tier next week, as many restaurants and bars may have hoped. During a small business webinar from San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, SF Deputy Health Officer Dr. Susan Philip explained that due to a slight increase in COVID cases and hospitalizations, San Francisco will be staying in the orange tier for now.

But in the meantime, anticipated on April 15, the city and county are easing a few of the local restrictions within the orange tier: Just in time for barbecue season, informal social gatherings outdoors with food are allowed to be held with up to 25 people. Restaurants with outdoor dining may seat up to 8 people per table (and take outdoor reservations for up to 25 people, provided they’re split between tables). And restaurants with indoor dining no longer have to worry about that 11 p.m. curfew (that previously, and somewhat confusingly, only applied to indoor dining, not outdoor dining).

Additionally, San Francisco is easing the restrictions for large entertainment venues for sports, concerts, and graduations. Large indoor venues, like attending a concert at Chase Center, can now go up to 35 percent capacity, and large outdoor venues, like catching a Giants game at Oracle Park, can now go up to 50 percent capacity, but specifically with proof of vaccination or testing. And in both cases, masks are required; any food and drink can only be enjoyed once in your seats.

After a rough fall and winter with delays and the lockdown, San Francisco seemed to be on a roll with spring reopenings: the city and county entered the red tier of “substantial risk” on March 3, ushering in the return of indoor dining, and moved to the less restrictive orange tier of “moderate risk” on March 24, upping indoor dining to 50 percent capacity, and bringing back outdoor drinking at bars, even without food. The city and county hit that tier change at exactly three weeks, the minimum amount of time required by the state. The yellow tier of “minimal risk” promises to be the least restrictive of all, opening up “most” indoor businesses with some modifications.

The delay in the move to the yellow tier is due to a slight swell in COVID cases and hospitalizations, Dr. Philip explained. But the good news is that San Francisco continues to show impressive vaccination numbers: 53 percent of San Francisco residents over the age of 16 have now received a first dose, crossing that 50 percent milestone in early April.

The Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA), the local restaurant lobbying group, expressed disappointment but understanding for the delay. “We are disappointed to hear that San Francisco will not be moving into the state’s yellow tier, but we appreciate the city’s willingness to relax some of our orange tier restrictions beginning April 15th,” said President Laurie Thomas in a statement. “We want to reiterate that all further reopening, as well as the June 15th date, is dependent upon people continuing to obey the existing restrictions and becoming vaccinated as soon as possible. We urge our industry and all San Franciscans to focus on reopening safely.”

Of course, the big statewide reopening news is that provided current trends continue, California will fully reopen on June 15, getting rid of the color tier system entirely, and reopening the economy for business as usual. But in the meantime, diners need to mask up, socially distance, and stop the swell, if they want to see the full return of restaurants.

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