- San Francisco Mayor London Breed approved a Shared Spaces Program Tuesday that allows restaurants to apply for free permits to use sidewalks, partial and whole streets and public space like parks for pickup. These spaces can also be used for seating when San Francisco's Public Health Order approves outdoor dining.
- Breed said in a tweet Tuesday that the application process will open next month.
- The Golden Gate Restaurant Association has been pushing a proposal since May 8 to open up "non-traditional spaces to allow restaurants to place their tables outdoors and still observe physical distancing rules and provide for ensuring safety for our employees and the public."
The allocation of public space for expanded outdoor seating is an exciting development for restaurants in municipalities where indoor dining rooms are either closed or under harsher restrictions than al fresco seating.
This could be especially helpful for the San Francisco restaurant market, which has taken a serious hit since the pandemic began. Bay Area restaurants said in a recent survey of 216 owners that "only offering delivery and takeout is not a financially viable solution for the majority of restaurants." Of that group, 60% of operators are losing money, and 62% have laid off at least half of their employees.
A growing number of states are preparing to allow restaurants to open up their patios for sit-down dining, with Illinois announcing last week that restaurants can open up outdoor seating in Phase 3 of reopening, which is expected to commence on Friday.
Some states have already opened up outdoor dining room seating to help increase capacity levels and try to help accelerate recovery. According to OpenTable data, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Vermont have all permitted al fresco dining services with some restrictions, with many more states exploring this option as local COVID-19 cases wane.
On the city level, San Jose, California recently approved a similar program that allocated public space for restaurant use. Washington, D.C. will allow restaurants to serve diners at tables spaced six feet apart, with no more than six diners at each table during Phase 1, which is expected to begin Friday.
This city planning strategy could also aid restaurants in markets where indoor seating has been approved because many diners are wary of reentering closed spaces with others amid the pandemic. Sixty-six percent of consumers said in a survey by Washington State University's Carson College of Business that they wouldn't be willing to eat in a restaurant's dining room, and almost 50% of respondents reported they would wait at least one to three months or more to eat inside a restaurant with another person.