SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco officials announced plans to resume indoor dining in the city once it is classified as “orange” in California’s color tier, according to a release from Mayor London Breed made Friday, September 18.

Local restaurants are working with the San Francisco Department of Public Health to develop guidelines for a safe reopening of the businesses which will be allowed to operate with a 25 percent capacity or up to 100 people. According to the state’s classification, right now San Francisco is assigned to the red or “substantial” tier which allows indoor dining to resume with a small capacity. However, City officials said they will continue reopening plans based on local health indicators and they will wait to be classified as “moderate” or orange to reopen indoor spaces at restaurants. According to the announcement from Mayor Breed, it is probable that San Francisco will not be classified as orange before the end of the September.

“Restaurants have been hit hard by COVID-19. Many have adapted with takeout and outdoor dining, but they’ve still been barely hanging on and, sadly, some have closed for good,” Mayor Breed said. “We are laying out the next steps to make sure restaurants are ready to reopen as safely as possible. I want to thank the Golden Gate Restaurant Association for working with us to get to this point. Helping our restaurant industry survive this pandemic is a key part of our longer-term economic recovery.”

According to Dr. Tomás Aragón, health officer of the City and County of San Francisco, and director of the Population Health Division (PHD) at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, science says that indoor spaces present additional risks related to coronavirus. Thus, the city is working on protocols that seek to reduce these risks for business owners, employees and customers. 

San Francisco officials and the Golden Gate Restaurant Association are developing a self-certification process that will give restaurants direction and tools to resume indoor dining in a safe way. When they reopen, businesses must document their ability to follow health guidelines through this self-certification process.

Leaders from restaurant associations expressed they are grateful with the news. Rene Colorado, executive director of the Tenderloin Merchants Association, said that even if the approach of outdoor dining has helped restaurants, it is not enough and it would be hard to operate this way during winter. 

“Today’s announcement brings hope to our San Francisco restaurants and the thousands of workers who need these jobs,” said Laurie Thomas, executive director at the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. “The past six months have caused so much pain and financial hardship for many. Having a clear and safe path to move forward with indoor dining, even at a limited capacity, will mean restaurants have the chance to reopen and/or see a way to not have to close.”

Business owners in San Francisco also reacted to the plans of reopening indoor dining.  

“It’s great to hear that we will be allowed to have indoor dining again, especially after having to close our busting dining room on Larkin Street in Little Saigon for six months,” said Thao Pham, owner of Turtle Tower Restaurant. “We are very excited to welcome guests back into our restaurant and its helpful to have more notice this time, so we can begin planning how best to do so responsibly and safely.”