It’s been a very busy weekend for many San Francisco restaurants, because they’ve been given the green light to reopen outdoor dining.
But sometimes the vague rules around separating customers have led to a variety of solutions from plexiglass to living “hedges” and makeshift patios. Some restaurants say, they’re not rushing to reopen al fresco dining no matter how many patrons are eager for them to do so.
“It’s so nice to be able to sit and have coffee with a friend without having to grab it and run. There’s no place to go,” said Jane Storseter of San Francisco.
Storseter and her long-time friend Jean Ellingsen thought being able to see each other face-to-face for a cup of coffee at a Toast Eatery on West Portal was a small luxury. Although, she is still waiting for her hair salon to reopen.
“It’s great but I still want a haircut," said Storseter. Monday afternoon was the first time either of them have sat outside in public for months.
But just a few feet away, eating outside for Goat Hill Pizza customers is not an option. Even with the new health order, it’s sticking to takeout and pickup only. Goat Hill employee Anthony Bussey said, “My employers just don’t feel that’s the safe thing. The coronavirus isn’t being called off. Restrictions are being lifted, but I just think it’s better to take every precaution possible.”
San Francisco’s latest health order seems a bit more lenient than those from other counties. There, small groups of six people or less are allowed to eat outside at a table together even if they are not from the same household.
UCSF Epidemiology professor Dr. George Rutherford said it’s all about managing personal risk you’re willing to take. He suggests avoiding typical peak dining hours. “And It’s just a question of how do you minimize risk and when you’re ready to accept a little bit more risk.”
Some restaurants like Pakwan on Ocean Ave have added plexi glass in between tables on their new sidewalk patio to add a level of security. Dr. Rutherford re-emphasizes - it is ultimately you who has to decided if you feel comfortable enough. “If you’re willing to accept that kind of risk, I think that’s ok," he said.
Some restaurants are staying out of the outdoor dining reopening altogether, saying it’s just too expensive. Supplies like tables, chairs, and plexiglass could add up to thousands of dollars that business owners just don’t have.