Coronavirus: Bay Area restaurants learning a lesson on how to reopen from Hong Kong

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As Governor Newsom starts laying out the phases for California's reopening, Bay Area restaurants are making plans to socially distance their customers.

But how does that work? What will it look like?

ABC7 News reporter, Kate Larsen, spoke to restaurant owners and chefs in San Francisco and Hong Kong to find out.

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"It used to be packed!"

Walking around her now empty Mission District restaurant, Christiane Schmidt, is working out how to socially distance customers once people are allowed to dine inside again.

"Now this table will not work," said Schmidt pointing to a large 6-person table. Most of her chairs and tables are stored in a back room of the restaurant, which used to be used for private parties, which Schmidt doesn't anticipate happening for a long time.

The whole restaurant is only about 14 feet across, which makes it difficult to keep customers 6 feet apart.

"I'm very worried about surviving. If you can only let 15 people here at one time, it's not going to be enough."

"Every other table down here is closed for business," said Jaime Draper, the head chef at Mr. Wolf, a restaurant in Central Honk Kong.

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Many businesses are still open in Hong Kong, but strict social distancing is being enforced with fines.

"You can only have four people at a table, so if there's five of you, you split three and two," explained Draper.

Mr. Wolf is a large restaurant, so there's space to spread out, unlike at Walzwerk in San Francisco. But the issue of surviving at a fraction of capacity is still the same....

"Yesterday, we did 40 for lunch. Normally, we'd do 140," said Draper.

Ayeesha Francis grew up in Hong Kong and recently went out with a group of friends.

"We went out for dinner with a group of five and we got put on two separate tables, so one of us was just shouting across the restaurant half the time, but it's better than nothing, and we know that we're a lot luckier than many places at the moment."

Francis has lived through three epidemics, including Swine Flu, which she contracted from one of her kindergarten students in 2008.

"I ended up with two weeks in the hospital, and unpaid leave which was awful."

Unlike most people in the US, Francis has become accustomed to the various restrictions that come with a new contagion. "When the government says please stay indoors, we go okay, they have a reason."

Her past experiences also leave her with hope for a return to normalcy after coronavirus. "We are dropping in our case numbers per day, our deaths numbers are lowering as well. So the restrictions have worked in that sense."

Back in San Francisco,Schmidt is now thinking about setting up a new reservation system, to ensure the beers and her customers keep flowing. "I think the times when you go to a restaurant and just come and sit and wait, those times are over, especially for a small place."

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