The latest pandemic surge is bringing more hard times for restaurants around the country, with San Francisco banning indoor dining again and the state of New Jersey ordering all restaurants to cut off dine-in service by 10 p.m. every night.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed ordered the dine-in shutdown on Tuesday as the city saw a 250% spike in COVID-19 cases. The shutdown goes into effect at midnight on Friday and will continue for an indefinite period. Outdoor dining will still be permitted.
San Francisco allowed restaurants to reopen dine-in services in September at 25 percent capacity. The plan was to increase that to 50 percent capacity this month if coronavirus cases remained under control. Many pizza restaurants in the city never reopened their dining rooms, sticking with outdoor dining and delivery/carryout.
“The fact is, the virus is spreading, and we have to make hard decisions,” the mayor said.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Grant Colfax, the city’s director of health, said cases will increase rapidly if steps aren’t taken to reduce indoor activities. In the past two weeks, COVID-19 cases have risen from 3.7 per 100,000 residents to 9 per 100,000 residents, with an average of 80 new cases per day, compared to 32 per day at the end of October.
“I know this is not the news our residents and businesses wanted to hear, but, as I’ve said all along, we’re making decisions based on the data we’re seeing on the ground,” Breed said in a statement. “Right now, our public health officials are telling us we need to take these steps to get the virus under control and save lives, so that’s what we’re doing.”
Breed said the city will allocate $4 million to assist businesses, including $2.5 million to waive taxes and fees and $500,00 to help restaurants reconfigure space to meet social-distancing requirements. Another $500,000 will go toward zero-interest loans to help low- and middle-income restaurant owners cover their operating expenses.
On the opposite coast, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has shortened operating hours for restaurants as the holiday season, normally a busy period for operators, approaches.
“The last thing I want to do—or any of us want to do—is shut our economy back down and, thankfully, we are not at that point,” NorthJersey.com quotes Murphy as saying. “Looking at the data, we are taking surgical steps that we hope will help mitigate the [pandemic’s] current increasing rate of speed.”
New Jersey closed down dine-in services in March and reopened with a 25-percent capacity limit in early September. The New Jersey Restaurant & Hospitality Association estimates that 40 percent of the state’s restaurants will have to close due to the pandemic.