Outdoor dining reopens in San Francisco amid COVID-19 pandemic

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Friday was the first day of outdoor dining in San Francisco since the shelter-in-place order began in mid-March.

Originally, Mayor London Breed said restaurants could open for outdoor dining on Monday, but on Tuesday, she surprised the restaurant industry by announcing permitted restaurants could open for outdoor dining three days sooner, on Friday. On Friday, Breed ate outside at Café Envy in the Bayview for lunch.

By happy hour, dozens of San Francisco restaurants were open for al fresco drinks and dinner.

Velvet ropes surrounded socially distanced tables in North Beach, bar tables and stools were out in parking spots on Grant Avenue, and disposable bar ware was the go-to for San Franciscans enjoying an end of week cocktail.

"The weather's nice, the suns out," said San Francisco resident, Mit Amin.

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"It feels very exciting to finally get out, get some fresh air, sit at a table," said Meg Reynolds.

"It's a little bit back to business as usual," said Sasha Dobrolioubov, who was at Balboa Cafe in Cow Hollow with a group of six friends, the max table size allowed during the new phase of outdoor dining, unless you're with members of your household.

"This is the first time out in probably 90-100 days," said Dobrolioubov.

Reynolds, who lives in San Francisco and was also having drinks with a friend at Balboa said, "I think that's one of the exciting things when they finally moved up the date to today for outdoor dining, is that it's nice to finally see people come out to these restaurants that so badly need the patrons that live around here to be able to support them. I live here and I don't want to see them go, so you gotta do your part to support them every day."

"We're used to these big crowds and so it is going to be a challenge," said Balboa co-owner, Hilary Newsom, who explained what they are doing to keep their staff and customers safe. "We have added security to ensure that guests, who have forgotten about the social distancing piece, really understand that you have to have a seat or you need to move on."

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San Francisco restaurants are now allowed to apply for permits to serve and dine in the public right of way, like the middle of sidewalks or new parklets that have popped up in parking spots.

"We asked the neighbors to put one or two tables close to his garden and we used the parking spots to make what you see," said Michael Azoulay, pointing to several tables set up on Washington Street outside Chouquet's, his Pacific Heights restaurant.

"Today is better than yesterday when we were just doing takeout," said Azoulay, who, like many restaurant owners, is still concerned.

"You work so hard for the last 15 years to put a restaurant together. Now with all the restrictions we have to reinvent ourselves which is not ideal. The city is not really giving us too much to work with. I don't know how the next few days are going to be."

Fortunately, San Francisco appears ready to eat out.

"Are you going to be out all weekend?" asked ABC7's Kate Larsen.

"Yes, I definitely will!" Reynolds said.
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