photo credit: Krescent Carasso

Everything We Know About SF’s New Indoor Dining Rules image


Everything We Know About SF’s New Indoor Dining Rules

SF restaurants can open for indoor dining on Sept. 30th. Let’s talk about it.

On Tuesday, Sept. 29th, Mayor London Breed gave San Francisco restaurants the go-ahead to reopen for indoor dining at a reduced 25% capacity, or a maximum of 100 people. Here’s what you can expect from restaurants who decide to reopen their indoor dining areas.

What does 25% actually mean?

The reduced indoor capacity does not count any of the restaurant’s employees, and includes outdoor diners who may need to enter the building to order food or use the bathroom. It also includes those who may have to go inside to pick up takeout.

It’s important to note that an earlier version of the preliminary guidelines released by San Francisco’s Department of Public Health (DPH) on Sept. 25th stated that the 25% indoor capacity would include restaurant employees, a decision that would put smaller restaurants at a disadvantage. City officials reversed that decision over the weekend, and changed the language in the current guidance for indoor dining.

Also, isn’t San Francisco in the “orange” tier? Doesn’t that mean the city is allowed to open at 50% capacity?

You are correct. San Francisco is currently the only Bay Area county in the “orange” stage of California’s reopening plan, meaning the city technically has the go-ahead from the state to reopen indoor dining at 50% capacity (or a max of 200 people). But the city is limiting that capacity out of caution and safety concerns.

Do I have to wear a mask?

Absolutely. Actually, these new rules state that you must keep your mask on even while seated at your table. You can only take it off once food and drinks are served, so keep it on while you debate which appetizer to order. Restaurant servers and other front-of-house staff are also allowed to wear N95 masks, so long as they cover the valves with an additional face covering.

What’s the deal with contact tracing?

Similar to outdoor dining, the city is encouraging restaurants to accept reservations. The DPH also encourages restaurants to ask diners to voluntarily provide their name and phone number. Again, it’s not mandatory for you to provide it, but it sure would make things a bit easier if you did.

Are there limits to how long I can eat?

Yes, each group has a two-hour limit.

Can I watch a football game or listen to live music inside?

Nope, sorry. The state is not permitting live entertainment or TVs indoors at this time. But restaurants are still allowed to offer live entertainment outdoors.

How long can I eat and drink inside?

Restaurants will have to close down at midnight. But if you’re already sitting down with food at that time, you get half an hour to finish your meal and leave. Simply put, by 12:30am you must turn into a pumpkin and leave.

Are bars and breweries reopening for indoor service at reduced capacities, too?

If they serve food, yes. And by “food,” the state calls it “bona fide meals”. In other words, just popcorn and pretzels are not going to cut it.

Is there a plan for increasing the number of people allowed inside?

Not yet. According to Mayor London Breed, the city is focusing on reopening indoor movie theaters and outdoor playgrounds by mid-October.

Is outdoor dining still going to be a thing?

The SF Examinerreported last week that outdoor dining could continue on through 2022 through the Shared Spaces program. So potentially, all those parklets and picnic tables that have taken over sidewalks and streets could be here long term.