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Already hit by pandemic, SF restaurants now forced to close early — or entirely — for curfew

Already hit by pandemic, SF restaurants now forced to close early — or entirely — for curfew
Photo: Tiffany P./Yelp
By Alisa Scerrato - Published on May 31, 2020.

Protesters have taken to the streets around the country, demanding justice for George Floyd, who was killed by police in Minneapolis, and for other African-American victims of police violence. 

In response, Mayor London Breed has enacted a nightly curfew for the city of San Francisco — 8 p.m. until 5 a.m., starting tonight. 

The curfew has put strain on San Francisco restaurants, already struggling from a lack of dine-in business during the shelter-in-place order for the COVID-19 pandemic. Some are closing early; others are discontinuing dinner service altogether. 

Jennifer Bennett, the founder of Cole Valley's Zazie, has had to shut down dinner service, which usually runs from 5 to 8 p.m. on Sundays.

Bennett says she supports the protests. But she's frustrated that the impact will ultimately fall on the employee-owned business, where many of the staff are people of color. 

On a normal night, her kitchen staff — the majority of whom are men of color — would typically get off around 10 p.m. Bennett says she can't expose them to the prospect of being arrested. 

"A lot of my kitchen guys live around South Van Ness and Civic Center, so I don’t want them to get arrested on their way home for being out past curfew," she said. "I also want them to be safe from the police, who are on edge right now.”

Jennifer Bennett, center, with her Zazie colleagues in 2009. | Photo: Courtesy of Zazie

Whether the dinner closure will continue beyond tonight remains up in the air. Bennett said she will ride it out and see.

“Safety is more important than revenue,” she said. “But it’s just another hit on restaurants in 2020.”

“If I knew the correct organizer to speak with, we would love to stay open and feed to people on the streets for marching for justice," said Marc Schechter, chef and business partner of SoMa's Square Pie Guys. "But safety is most important." 

Usually open until 9 p.m. on Sundays, the business will close at 6:30 tonight to protect its staff and delivery drivers, who need to commute home safely. 

“It’s definitely scary out there, even if you do the right things,” said Schechter. “You can actually get caught up in things accidentally.”

Though they can't provide pizza to protesters, Schechter says he and co-owner Danny Stoller have donated to the Anti-Police Terror Project.

Photo: Flee Kieselhorst/Square Pie Guys

Schechter says the uncertainty in the restaurant business right now is difficult.

"This is a new level for restaurants right now," he said. "But we are just doing the best we can to keep people safe and provide hospitality and good service."

Other businesses have announced the suspension of dinner service tonight, including Izakaya Rintaro and the Mission location of Pizzeria Delfina.

Others will be closing early, including the Marina's Causwells, the Excelsior's Dark Horse Inn, Gioia Pizzeria in Hayes Valley and the San Francisco locations of Super Duper Burgers.