COVIDEat & DrinkNewsSan Francisco

Outdoor Dining in SF Starts Friday, But May Be Scarce

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San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced on Tuesday that the city’s restaurants will be allowed to open for outdoor dining this Friday, June 12.  Even earlier than the original target date of June 15th). That means sidewalk dining and patio dinning will be permitted by the city, tomorrow, and the outdoor dining permit process is very easy and doesn’t need to be processed by the city to go into effect.  Small business owners just have to fill it out online.

But, the big caveat here is that San Francisco’s Department of Public Health hasn’t released their safety guidelines for restaurant owners and staff yet. (they are expected to on Friday).

Hard to drink with a face covering. Restaurants don’t need a Shared Spaces permit if they already have a permit for outdoor seating on the sidewalk or patio.

Furthermore, if you don’t currently have a permit to serve alcohol outside, the abc has its own COVID temporary permits for that.  So what you’ll most likely see Friday, is restaurants who used to have sidewalk or patio seating, opening at limited capacity.  But it’s a case by case business.  Many are still wary of the pandemic, staff safety, or the public scrutiny.

BAS spoke with an owner of several SF restaurants this morning, and he doesn’t plan on opening any sidewalk or parking spot seating this Friday.  He will however resume existing patio/sidewalk seating at only one of his locations on Monday, once the SFDPH’s guidelines are made available and staff can be appropriately trained and notified.

So for this weekend, take this ‘outdoor dining’ news with a grain of salt.  Few restaurants will have outdoor seating open on Friday, but the restaurants you know who already have outdoor seating permits and alcohol serving permits for sidewalks or patios, are most likely the venues who will be back in action soonest.  Just check with them first.

Meanwhile, the existing COVID restaurant guidelines are the ones given by the state, which include servers wearing masks, and dining tables spread farther apart ect.  SF Specific dining guidelines should be out tomorrow via SFDPH.

Bars who don’t serve food, will have to wait until at least July to open up seating.

Here are the sf gov guidelines for restaurants applying for sidewalk/street use (via

What to do

You may apply to use the sidewalk or parking lane.

For outdoor business, you cannot use a:

  • Traffic lane (for bikes or cars)
  • Bus stop
  • Red or blue curb zone

You may apply to use outdoor space, and we will work with you to find a space near your business.

You don’t need a Shared Spaces permit if you already have a permit for outdoor seating on the sidewalk. You don’t need this permit if you have outdoor space like a yard or patio. Only apply if you want to use the parking lane or you need extra space.

1. Check our rules

Outdoor business use

You must follow City rules to use space in front of your business:

  • Follow physical distancing protocols
  • Display a copy of the permit during business hours
  • To use the sidewalk for business activity, you must make and maintain a straight, clear travel path at least 6 feet (2 yards) wide across your entire sidewalk
  • Comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the SF Better Streets Plan
  • Keep curb ramps, doors, driveways, fire escapes, and Fire Department connections free of obstructions
  • Keep furniture in the approved area
  • Don’t place or store food trays or carts on the sidewalk or parking lane
  • Keep the parking lane and sidewalk clean of trash, debris, and food waste at all times
  • Don’t obstruct the sidewalk next to a bus stop, blue curb zone, white curb zone, or bike rack

Additional sidewalk rules

  • Provide and use approved diverters
  • Keep furniture and diverters clear and free of advertising
  • Bring in furniture and diverters when you close every day

Additional parking lane seating rules

Check how to use sidewalk or curb space for your business

2. Decide how to use your space

You can use the sidewalk or parking lane for:

  • Physical distancing space for your customers to stand in line
  • Seating or dining
  • Retail use

You may use a parking lane as a curbside pickup area for cars.

If you want to use a parking lane, measure how many feet along the curb you want to use.

If there are metered parking spaces, count how many metered parking spaces you will use.

If you want to use a parking lane for seating or dining, decide how many tables and chairs you will use in the parking lane.

3. Talk to your neighbors to use their space

If you want to use space in front of a neighboring property, you will need permission from the property owner or tenant.

If they agree, you will need to upload a screenshot or scan of their written permission with your application.

We will also need their name and location address.

4. Check and prepare your insurance documents

You must have at least $1 million in general commercial liability insurance coverage. Your coverage must include how you intend to use your outdoor space like liquor liability.

You must maintain workers compensation insurance in statutory amounts.

Your insurance must include the City and County of San Francisco as additional insured or a blanket endorsement.

You must upload these 3 separate insurance documents when you apply. Take a picture or scan these documents:

  1. A certificate of insurance (COI) with your coverage information (Insurance certificate example)
  2. An insured endorsement naming the City and County of San Francisco as additional insured or a blanket endorsement (Insured endorsement example)
  3. A waiver of subrogation for workers compensation insurance (Waiver of subrogation example)

You may have to ask your insurer to provide these documents.

5. Apply

We will ask you about:

  • Your contact information
  • Your business location and information
  • How you will use the space

You will also upload your insurance documents and agree to your responsibilities.

It will take about 15 minutes.

We will email you a copy of your application and information about what to do next.

6. After you apply

If you applied to use sidewalk space, you may start using this space in 2 business days or when outdoor retail or dining is allowed by public health officials, whichever comes first. We will contact you if we find issues with your application or insurance documents. You must provide and use diverters.

If you applied to use a parking lane, we will email you within 3 business days with next steps.

After you get your permit, you must provide and use traffic barriers or diverters before using the outdoor space.

We may ask you to take a picture of your space and email it to us.

Learn what to expect after you apply to use the sidewalk or parking lane.


Reopening San Francisco:
When you leave the place you live, you must stay at least 6 feet apart from others who are not part of your living unit and you must wear a face covering.

Curbside retail and outdoor businesses are back in operation.

Phase 2b reopening this Friday June 12th.

Outdoor dining including restaurants and bars serving food
Indoor retail (malls require approved plans)
All curbside retail
All manufacturing, warehouse and logistics with no limit on the number of on-site personnel subject to social distancing
Non-emergency medical appointments
All private indoor household services like cooks and house cleaners
Outdoor fitness with social distancing
Professional sports and other entertainment for broadcast but with no in-person spectators, under approved plans
Small gatherings, including religious services and ceremonies
Office, anyone who can telework must continue to do so except as needed on site for operations
Childcare and education
Summer camps with stable groups of up to 12


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