Little Relief for San Francisco Restaurants on the Verge of Shutting Down

NBC Universal, Inc.

Now that the stay-at-home order has been extended, there’s more time for cities and business owners to figure out how to prepare for a safe reopening. But some local restaurant and business owners in San Francisco are wondering if they can reopen at all. 

Before the pandemic, on any given night, owners of Pizzeta say they need to fill every seat in order to make a modest profit. Now, the restaurant has only four tables outside, four inside and four seats at the bar. 

“When the city does open, there’s going to be a change,” said Mayor London Breed. “There’s going to be a change with restaurants.”

For Pizzeta, if reopening includes cutting numbers in half to meet social distance rules, reopening could prove impossible.

“Who knows, until they tell us what the new mandates are, it’s almost worth not even guessing,” said owner Jack Murphy.

For many, dreams of reopening are back on hold.

“I can’t wait to get back to feeding people,” said Mel Lopez, restaurant executive chef and partner. “That’s all I want to do in my life is feed people and make people happy.”

Chef Lopez from Pearl, a neighborhood restaurant in San Francisco’s Richmond District, had to layoff her entire staff.

On Monday, she was cooking lasagna to give out for free to hospitality workers in need.

“Definitely anxious to get it back open, also scared of not sure what it’s going to look like when we open back up,” Lopez said.

Having half the tables, staff wearing masks full time and a much heavier reliance on take are all possibilities. But some business owners, like Murphy, say even at 75% capacity, his restaurant would barely break even. 

The city says it’s working with landlords to delay rent collection to allow small businesses time to adjust and bounce back.

Whatever happens, most of the restaurants just hope they get the chance to keep doing what they love. 

“Here’s not the buzz of the in house restaurant, there’s not the shake of a cocktail,” said Murphy. “There isn’t people sitting down, catching up from a busy week. The whole spirit of hospitality is gone right now.”

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