San Francisco restaurants may reopen for outdoor dining

Purple Tier status piques continued concern as restrictions lift


Claire Abel

Diners eat a meal at Trattoria da Vittorio’s outdoor seating on West Portal Ave. on Jan. 28, 2021. Outdoor dining reopened Thursday after San Francisco was placed on the state’s Purple Tier of the color-coded classification system for coronavirus infections.

Claire Abel, Reporter

WEB EXCLUSIVE The San Francisco Department of Public Health allowed restaurants to reopen for outdoor dining on Thursday, but not everyone feels that it’s safe. 

San Francisco is opening at the state’s Purple Tier, which means that the county COVID-19 risk level is widespread, with more than seven cases per 100,000 residents, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s color-coded classification system. This tier allows all restaurants to open outdoor seating with modifications.

“I don’t think it’s safe, even if dining is outdoors,” freshman Zara Kirk said. “There are still too many people coming in contact with each other.”

Restaurants must position tables so that they are 6 feet apart and only six customers from two households are allowed at each table.

“Factors that you are looking for are individual risk, spacing, timing, how crowded it is, social norms that are in place, and how well organized the restaurant is with their protocols,” school nurse Katie Coleman wrote in an email.

Cases of COVID-19 are twice as high now as they were the last time San Francisco had outdoor dining, but the decision to reopen balances the public health risk of COVID-19 with the risks of economic and mental health stress, according to the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

Customers must be screened for COVID-19 symptoms before they are seated and they may only dine for two hours at the most, under county guidelines. 

The opening of activities under each sector does not signify that the activities are “safe,” but the San Francisco Department of Public Health says it made its best effort to ensure safer participation for workers and the public.

“I’m a little bit hesitant,” visual arts teacher Julie Martin said. “I might wait and see how things go for a little while first.”