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A Widespread Square Outage Devasted Restaurants Across the Bay Area on Thursday

The credit card processing system, which is owned by San Francisco-based Block Inc., forced restaurants and bars to pivot to cash payments only or, in some cases, close entirely

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A sign advertising the Square credit card processing systyem.
A widespread Square outage forced closures and other issues at restaurants across the Bay Area.
Lauren Saria is the editor of Eater SF and has been writing about food, drinks, and restaurants for more than a decade.

Restaurants, bars, and bakeries across the Bay Area took to social media on Thursday to warn customers they’d be taking payments in cash or via Venmo due to issues with digital payment company Square. San Francisco-based tech company Block Inc. owns both Square and CashApp, which was also giving users issues yesterday. TechCrunch reports Square, which many small businesses including restaurants use to process card payments, began experiencing issues around noon on Thursday, though systems seem to be back online as of 9 a.m. PST on Friday. DownDetector shows more than 18,000 reports of issues with Square peaking on Thursday afternoon.

The extended outage left many business owners without the ability to accept digital payments for more than half a day. Lion Dance Cafe, the Michelin Guide-listed Singaporean restaurant in Oakland, told customers on Thursday afternoon that due to the Square outage, staff would be taking payments via cash, Venmo, and PayPal; online ordering for takeout wasn’t possible at all. “Our team is doing their best to make this enormous setback work and isn’t to blame for the inconvenience,” the post reads. “We are sorry that this is affecting you all too, we’re in it together.” Laundromat SF in San Francisco’s Richmond District also posted about being unable to accept card payments, as did Mijoite in the Mission District and Friends and Family, the Oakland cocktail bar. “Please be kind with us — and please come to eat and drink! This summer was rough — we sincerely can’t afford a night without business,” the bar wrote.

Other businesses opted to roll the dice on taking card payments in “offline mode,” which allows owners to run transactions without having access to the internet. Dumpling Club in the Mission District posted on Instagram stories about the decision, explaining that the offline payments should go through once the outage ended — though there was a risk that “we lose every transaction we made tonight.” On Friday morning, a second post shared that all payments from Thursday evening seem to have gone through without further issues.

Still, some restaurant owners say the outage caused real damage to their businesses. Leaning Tower, an Oakland bakery, closed entirely on Thursday due to the Square outage. Bayview restaurant Gumbo Social, which opened earlier this summer, posted an Instagram story saying the restaurant turned away some 50 customers Thursday because of being unable to take card payments. “Devasting day for small business in San Francisco,” the restaurant wrote.