Coronavirus curfew starts at 10 p.m. Saturday. Will you notice a difference?
The state-mandated nightly curfew looming for most of the Bay Area on Saturday prompted shrugs, groans of despair and cries for help Friday.
With most of the Bay Area’s businesses, including restaurants and bars, already shut down by 10 p.m. during the pandemic, most don’t expect much of an impact. And few folks are decrying the loss of nightlife, which has largely been in hibernation since March.
“It won’t affect me,” said Alisha Ponce, 27, a medical assistant who works at UC Berkeley student health service and lives in Antioch. “I’ll just go home and do nothing after work — as usual.”
The 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew starts Saturday night in every Bay Area county but San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo, which so far are exempt. San Francisco officials, however, said Friday they expect they will have to join the curfew within days. The curfew, for counties that fall into the purple tier, the state’s most-restrictive category for counties during the coronavirus, is expected to last a month.
During the curfew, nonessential businesses must shut down, restaurants will have to stop serving customers outdoors, though they can still cook up takeout and delivery orders, and all wineries, bars and breweries will have to close. Grocery stores and pharmacies can remain open, and travel to and from stores, to pick up takeout and get to or from essential jobs will be permitted. So will walking your dog.
Most nonessential businesses already close well before 10 p.m., but the curfew will hit some late-night restaurants, forcing them to close their patios, sidewalk tables and makeshift parklets early.
“We’re pretty much going to be giving everyone the boot at 9:30 so they have time to get home,” said Jesse Baughman, co-owner of Beta Lounge in Berkeley, which usually keeps its outdoor patio open until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Baughman figures the restaurant, near the UC Berkeley campus and downtown Berkeley, will have to close for three or four of its busiest hours. About 70% of its business comes “after the sun goes down,” he said.
Early closures hit particularly hard for restaurants that just had to shut down limited indoor dining after a couple of weeks. And they come during the holiday season when business picks up with festive gatherings before the cold and bleak business drop at the start of the year.
“It’s pretty bad timing,” Baughman said. “But at the same time, I’ve had some family (a great-aunt) die from COVID, so I understand. You gotta do what you gotta do. It will be hard for us financially, but on a human level, I agree with all the measures they’re taking.”
Laurie Thomas, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, described the 10 p.m. curfew as devastating for many restaurants in the city, especially ones that have leaned into outdoor dining during the pandemic. The timing will change how restaurants accommodate reservations for a portion of their dinner crowds, she said.
“In my opinion, that’s way too early. That means you have to stop seating at 7:30 p.m. or 8 p.m.,” Thomas said. “Why can’t (the curfew) be until 11 p.m.? At least you’d be able to sit people until 9 p.m. If it could be moved even an hour later, I think the curfew could still accomplish 80 or 90% of the goal and it would cause a lot less financial damage to businesses.”
Most Bay Area businesses, including restaurants, have already adjusted their hours to close before 10 p.m. during the pandemic and won’t be affected much, owners and managers said.
Among these businesses is Po’boys Kitchen, which was recently opened by Metin Yalcin on Potrero Hill. His restaurant closes at 9 p.m., and he said his latest orders for takeout, which make up about 80% to 85% of sales, come in at around 8 p.m.
“San Francisco didn’t have a late-hours dining culture anyway, even before all of this. Everything changed in March, and the latest you’ll see places open these days is about 9:30 p.m.,” he said. “Still, you have a lot of neighborhoods, like North Beach, where restaurants don’t really rely as much on takeout service, that could be hurt by this. It’s all heartbreaking to see.”
In Oakland early Friday evening, only one customer sat in the outdoor partition of the Athletic Club Oakland set up by the sports bar to comply with COVID guidelines. Owner Miles Palliser said he does not anticipate much changing when the curfew starts.
“I think people are living a quiet life right now,” Palliser said. “I’m not up in arms about it.”