San Francisco restaurant owners were racing to meet city permit requirements that will allow them to open their businesses for outside dining on sidewalks and parking spots starting this Friday.
The city's new Shared Spaces program is aimed at allowing restaurants to increase outdoor table capacity to generate more income after being closed for in-house dining for several months. Mayor London Breed announced in late May the city would cut red tape to make the process for applying for the program quick and easy.
But with the application process opening this week, business owners were finding a narrow window to apply for the permits in time for Fridays opening.
"So there's no time for us to apply for this," said Awadalla Awadalla, owner of Hole in the Wall Pizza in the city's Sunset District. "I'm scrambling right now getting the document, getting everything, insurance -- things like that."
Though the city is not charging a fee for the outdoor dining permit, the program requires restaurants to add additional insurance, street and sidewalk barriers while making sure their dining area's maintain physical distancing.
Awadalla, who already has a permit for sidewalk dining, was hoping to get a permit to put another four or five tables in the three parking spots in front of his business.
"That will enable me to increase my business at least 20 percent," Awadalla said.
In North Beach, businesses like Caffe Trieste were already prepared for Friday's opening, with barriers in the street marking an outdoor space where customers will soon sip cappuccino and espresso.
At nearby Sotto Mare Osteria Seafood restaurant, Owner Richard Azzolino was still wading through the permit process.
"I looked at what they put online yesterday," Azzolino said, "and in order to do what they want by Friday would be almost a miracle."
Azzolino said he was scrambling to find suitable street barriers to meet the permit's requirement they be sturdy enough to not be "blown away by the wind," but portable enough to remove each night. On top of the local regulations, business owners were also trying to figure out regulations by the state department of Alcohol Beverage Control to see if there were additional requirements for serving alcohol in street areas.
Despite all the hoops to jump through, Azzolino said it was worth the effort if it resulted in more outdoor tables.
"Any expansion to add some seats that are going to be taken away from us elsewhere is a positive note," said Azzolino.