Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to announce some sort of timetable for reopening restaurants for in-house dining Tuesday, and with indications showing California is flattening the curve, there’s lots of optimism among Bay Area businesses that they’ll get some good news.
The California Restaurant Association has drafted recommendations that include limiting tables to family and household members but not to exceed 10 people. Salad bars, buffets and shared bread baskets would be out. Salt and pepper shakers could be replaced by bottles of hand sanitizer.
Depending on their size, restaurateurs are hoping that they can retain 25% or 50% or more of their old seating capacity, making calculations about how many customers they need to survive.
Santo Esposito opened his Il Cilentano restaurant in North Beach just 10 days before restrictions went into effect.
“I’m on the floor, I take the orders, I do the pizza, I do the pasta,” he said, explaining he is the only employee.
Esposito has heard about the new guidelines the governor’s expected to announce, specifically that there will be far fewer tables to maintain physical distancing.
“I don’t see anything positive about reopening with the restrictions,” Esposito said.
He adds that he has to wait for all restrictions to lift before he can afford to hire the five people needed to resume in-house dining.
“Absolutely not,” said Dario Nicotra when asked if his Acquolina Restaurant could survive with half as many tables. Short-term he has a Paycheck Protection Program loan, and long term, he has an idea where the city, the landlord and the tenant work together.
“The city has to give some kind of a tax break or waiver on the property taxes or some relief to the landlord,” Nicotra said.
The landlord then passes on that money to the tenant. Everyone takes a hit, but everyone survives.
Chain restaurants say they’ll be ready to reopen. Chevy's management said it's ready with more cleaning, reduced capacity and temperature checks of every worker before every shift.
Restaurant reopenings have become symbolic of the thorny problems of trying to jump-start the economy in a state so populous and diverse. Under Newsom's reopening plan, it could be weeks or even a month before restaurant dining rooms are allowed to reopen, depending on whether progress is made in reducing COVID-19 deaths and ramping up testing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.