Bay Area Allows Indoor Dining, Though Most Restaurants Still Offer Outdoor Seating

October 31, 2020 Updated: November 1, 2020

SANTA CLARA, Calif.—As of October, Bay Area restaurants are allowed to reopen for indoor dining and seat guests at a maximum of 25 percent capacity or 100 people.

Many still only offer outdoor seating, but those who have opened for indoor dining are meticulous, and customers are growing more comfortable with the transition.

“I personally felt, oh my God, there’s people inside. This hasn’t been happening for so long,” Brigid Martin, assistant manager at the restaurant a Mano, told The Epoch Times. “It’s feeling like we’re getting back to normal.”

At a Mano, an Italian restaurant in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley neighborhood, the spacious interior allows them to seat up to 27 people while maintaining a distance of six feet apart.

They have kept their old layout and removed some tables so that when things get back to normal they can just add the tables back in.

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People dine inside and outside at a Mano in San Francisco on Oct. 31, 2020. (Ilene Eng/The Epoch Times)

They have fewer employees than before, but they are actively hiring, as they expect to get busier soon.

“We are very close to, if not at, our old capacity. And once we are able to open up for 50 percent, we’ll definitely, with our parklet and the patio, everything like that, be past the capacity that we were at before,” Martin said. “Which is pretty great.”

San Francisco had the fewest COVID-19 cases in the Bay Area, so it started reopening for indoor dining at the beginning of October when it was in the Orange tier of the state’s reopening framework.

San Francisco was the first Bay Area county to reach the Yellow tier. It had plans to increase the indoor dining capacity to 50 percent on Nov. 3, but these were put on pause on Oct. 30 after an increase in COVID-19 cases.

A Mano offers a full menu and delivery through DoorDash for takeout, something they had never done before.

“Because a lot of the pastas are handmade and everything like that, it just didn’t travel as well,” Martin said. “But we put our heads together when the shutdown happened … and came up with a bunch of dishes that actually travel really well.”

Ben Joaquin Torres, manager at Café de la Presse near San Francisco’s Chinatown, told The Epoch Times that they take all the necessary precautions, and people feel safe.

“We have plenty of protective space, as well as just a good reputation that’s brought the people back to us,” Torres said.

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Tables stand six feet apart in front of Santana Row restaurants in San Jose, Calif., on Oct. 28, 2020. (Ilene Eng/The Epoch Times)

David Wiesner, owner of Siena Bistro in San Jose, said that eight people have sat inside his restaurant so far after the reopening, and all enjoyed it.

“I can normally seat 48 people. Now I have 12 seats and smaller tables so I can make a party of two, or a party of four, or a party of six,” Wiesner told The Epoch Times.

He removed a lot of tables to make sure people are sitting at least six feet apart.

He opened for indoor dining on Oct. 14 after Santa Clara County allowed indoor dining on Oct. 13.

His restaurant normally has an outdoor patio, so outdoor dining is nothing new to him. He said most people chose to sit outside because of good weather.

“I’d like to think that I run a pretty clean restaurant anyway. I always get high marks on my health inspection,” said Wiesner. “We always wash our hands; now you see us washing our hands. We always wipe down the tables; now you see us wiping down the tables. Now you have the hand sanitizer out. I don’t think I had it around before.”

Epoch Times Photo
Indoor and outdoor dining at Zazil Cocina Mexicana at Santana Row in San Jose, Calif., on Oct. 28, 2020. (Ilene Eng/The Epoch Times)

He makes sure the cleanliness and safety protocols are visible. In addition, the procedures in the restaurant are more time-consuming, since many things cannot be shared.

“We can’t have salt and pepper on the table. So we’ve got to make time to bring that out as each individual orders,” Wiesner explained. “We don’t have sugar packets on the table, so we’ve got to ask, do you want pink, blue, white, or yellow?”

Silverware is not placed on the table unless a customer sits down.

Not all restaurants feel the same rate of improvement.

In Fremont, Mas Fuego Restaurant is seeing slower business than before indoor dining was allowed.

“A lot of people are usually skeptical when you ask them if they want to sit inside or outside. And they look and see, and they normally choose to sit outside,” Folanch Borjas, manager at Mas Fuego, told The Epoch Times.

There are eight tables in the restaurant, and they do not offer a full menu.

She said they are still losing a lot even with outdoor seating, because people are still afraid of catching the CCP virus, which causes COVID-19.

Alameda County allowed indoor dining starting Oct. 23.