'Not worth it to stay open': Bay Area restaurants concerned about COVID-19 reopening rollbacks

ByLuz Pena and Cornell Barnard KGO logo
Sunday, November 15, 2020
Bay Area restaurants adjust to new indoor dining ban
Much of the Bay Area is pivoting once again when it comes to eating out. Indoor dining has shut down in San Francisco due a rise in COVID-19 cases and Santa Clara, Contra Costa and Marin counties plan to end indoor dining next week.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Much of the Bay Area is pivoting once again when it comes to eating out. Indoor dining lasted five and a half weeks in San Francisco. At 11:59 p.m. Friday, indoor dining was banned due to an increase of COVID-19 cases citywide. Santa Clara, Contra Costa, and Marin Counties plan to end indoor dining next week.

San Francisco's Warfare Tavern's General Manager and partner Tony Marcell enjoys the sounds of his restaurant bustling with 25% capacity for indoor dining.

"This dining room seats about another 20 people total and there is about four tables removed from here," described Marcell

But that joy only lasted a few weeks. Once the clock hit midnight, all indoor tables were emptied and indoor dining was prohibited again in San Francisco.

RELATED: Coronavirus live updates: Bay Area counties to close indoor dining amid case surge

"Speaking on behalf of all of us is very concerning and it's at a place that is alarming time for us and we are just starting the winter," said Marcell.

There's an echo of construction in San Francisco's Hayes Valley. It's where contractor Pierre Pegeron is busy building a parklet. The same type of structure he's been building for months.

"We wanted to get it done by the end of the day, people are struggling he needs to get it up and running," said Pegeron.

The parklet is for David Bass, owner of Sugar Lounge who plans to reopen serving food outdoors, after a nine-month closure.

"Hopefully that's going to give us a little bit of what we used to have," said Bass.

WATCH: Indoor dining ban in San Francisco concerning to restaurant owners as rain approaches

Indoor dinning lasted just five and a half weeks in San Francisco before being banned once again as COVID-19 cases surge nationwide.

On Hayes Street, the kitchen staff at A Mano restaurant are cooking up tasty dishes for outdoor diners. As for the indoor dining room, it's now off-limits.

"It's not hard saying goodbye to indoor dining, we want to make sure staff and guests are safe and that SF gets up and running," said A Mano manager, Fabio Prieta.

Health officers believe indoor dining is too risky at a time when COVID-19 rates are surging statewide. San Francisco remains in the yellow tier, but this week Mayor London Breed announced an increase of 250% of COVID-19 cases since early October leading to this decision.

"Sadly, beginning the end of the day Friday, we will need to eliminate indoor dining," said Mayor Breed.

California's health and human services secretary says most transmissions in the state are coming from "high-risk situations where masks are not worn the entire time."

"Everyone is like well why are indoor restaurants getting blamed? There is no caused contract tracing showing direct correlation from safety using low capacity 25% or under indoor dining with ventilation and masks. There are no studies that show that they are a 1-1 causation," said Laurie Thomas with the Golden Gate Restaurant Association.

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With more rain coming, restaurant owners say the city didn't give them enough time to prepare for an exclusive outdoor dining option. Some don't have a roof to cover their tables from the rain.

"Our plan this weekend is pray for no rain," said Marcell.

According to the Golden Gate Restaurant Association restaurants are cutting staff hours to survive with the outdoor dining option.

"We need our people to be safe, it's smart that things are closing up," said diner Kristina Truong.

In Marin county, health officials say COVID-19 rates have doubled in the past ten days and are rising. Because of that new, tighter restrictions begin Nov. 17.

It means gyms must reduce capacity to 10% retail and malls must limit customers to 50% and no concessions can operate at indoor movie theaters. Restaurants must stop serving customers indoors.

RELATED: Alameda Co. pauses reopening due to spike in COVID-19 cases, could force some businesses to close: 'I'm praying we can survive'

The Marin County Public Health Director Dr. Matt Willis said in a statement:

"We're seeing more people getting sick with COVID-19 and needing hospitalization, with flu season and potential impacts from holiday gatherings and travel, it's time to act to prevent a much larger surge."

Adman Daken says his Tam Commons Tap Room and Kitchen in San Rafael can't survive more restrictions.

"We're going to shut down, we can't keep open doing only outdoor seating.. the weather is not going to help it's not worth it to stay open," Daken said.

Daken is hopeful he can reopen, someday soon.

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