San Francisco Restaurants Rebounding From Months Of COVID-19 Shutdowns

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — There was a comfortable level of normalcy along San Francisco’s waterfront Saturday evening. It was a balmy night and diners were nestled inside restaurants and on patios enjoying the evening.

They were socially distanced, had limited seating and staff members wore masks. But they were once again open. It was a full house in COVID-19 terms at sister restaurants Epic Steak and Waterbar on the Embarcadero.

Diners took in views of the Bay Bridge on a balmy San Francisco night. Others chose to eat at socially-distanced tables indoors. The kitchens were buzzing with activity.

“It’s been so warm you know, when is it every like this?” said Jack Harman of San Francisco. “But take advantage of this while it’s like this.”

Jack Harman celebrated his anniversary with his wife Olivia at Epic Steak.  

“The measures that the city has taken to enable street dining and having these spaces set up with tables has really made it much easier,” said Olivia Harman. “And the weather is obviously a huge plus and bonus as well.”

Saturday’s high of 93 degrees tied for the second-warmest temperature recorded this late in the year.

“We’re probably about 40 to maybe 50 percent of what we were last year,” said Epic Steak and Waterbar Managing Partner Pete Sittnick. “So in reality it’s really tough to make it sustainable at that level, but we’re happy to be able to take care of the guests.”

Sittnick is encouraged that cases of COVID-19 have remained flat in California in October.

The city’s most recent 7-day average of new cases per day is 29, down from 37 the previous week.

“What the Bay Area has done is it’s been following the basic principles of how to prevent spread much better than other communities,” said UC Berkeley Infectious Diseases Expert John Swartzberg. “We’ve masked more, better social distancing.”

Outside of California, 17 states have declared record one-day increases in virus cases. In Wisconsin, one in four tests come back positive. In North Dakota, there are only 22 ICU beds left.

“We’re doing pretty well, we’re taking the precautions that we need to be taking, and we feel comfortable coming out to dine,” said Helen Ahrens of Alameda.

Ahrens and her friend Lisa Smusz celebrated their 50th birthdays at Epic Steak.

“We’re in each other’s social bubble, so we’re not interacting with other people other than one another, we live right next door to each other. So we’re being safe, we’re wearing out masks, we’re doing our research before we go out, there’s good ventilation coming in, so I would just hope that other folks would do the same,” said Smusz.

Many restaurants are hoping that as winter approaches and the weather gets chillier, indoor capacity will increase, and COVID cases continue to trend downwards in the Bay Area.