It was a dismal spring for San Francisco's bars and restaurants, and it looks to be an even more dismal and disastrous winter as more potential COVID restrictions loom and as a second round of federal stimulus relief continues not to arrive.
Some restaurants, including downtown stalwart Boulevard (1 Mission Street), reopened for outdoor dining, parklet and all, but are now taking a winter's rest in order to conserve cash during what will likely be some major money-losing months. The restaurant's "hibernation," as they called it, began before Thanksgiving, on November 22. (Meanwhile, chef-partner Nancy Oakes is also occupied with serving outdoor diners at the newly reopened Tosca Cafe in North Beach.)
"While we were disappointed to hear that San Francisco would not be moving forward to allow indoor dining at 50 percent capacity, we understand the need to pause any plans of re-opening in order to help keep the residents of San Francisco safe," Boulevard's owners say in a statement on the restaurant's website. "While we have enjoyed being able to serve our guests through these trying times, with the winter months upon us and the loss of our outdoor dining capabilities, we have decided to make the decision to close our doors for the time being until we can operate indoors at a greater capacity."
The Chronicle reports this week that a number of other prominent city restaurants are mulling a winter pause as well, in a last-ditch effort to save themselves from digging an even greater debt hole.
As Laurie Thomas, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association tells the paper, "What people are trying to figure out right now is do we hibernate in order to conserve cash? It’s a real choice to make at this point."
Popular, fast-casual "Arabic comfort food" spot Beit Rima, which now has two locations in the Castro and Cole Valley, is one of the businesses considering a winter hiatus. Owner Samir Mogannam cites the high costs of staffing the restaurants when no one can dine indoors, especially as colder, wetter nights are coming.
Mister Jiu's, in Chinatown, is currently open for outdoor dining on Waverly Place, but chef-owner Brandon Jew says he's always considering a pause as well.
On Monday, Mayor London Breed and Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax said that new, stricter public-health orders are likely to come this week — though they did not say what they would be, and said a decision had yet to be made. When asked about whether outdoor dining was going to be stopped as it has been in Los Angeles County amid the current COVID surge, Breed said, "Unfortunately, we can't rule it out."