Indoor Dining Is Closed Again. Some Bay Area Restaurant Workers Are Relieved.

Posted: Nov 17, 2020

For restaurant owners struggling to keep their businesses afloat, San Francisco’s announcement that indoor dining must shut down again last week came as yet another frustrating blow. But with evidence mounting of the risk of COVID-19 spreading indoors, some restaurant workers breathed a sigh of relief.

“I was relieved. I thought it was so necessary,” says Evan, a server and bartender at a seafood restaurant in San Francisco who requested anonymity due to fear of retaliation from his employer. He was granted anonymity in accordance with Hearst Bay Area’s anonymous source policy. “... It was going to be insane if they didn’t shut it down. We were going to go to 50% capacity. We were at 25% and it already felt like way too much.”

Fear of waiting tables right now isn’t unfounded — a CDC report found that adults with positive COVID-19 test results were approximately twice as likely to have reported dining at a restaurant than were those with negative results. In response to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, Gavin Newsom announced on Monday that most California counties must follow in San Francisco’s footsteps to close indoor dining rooms.

These closures are a double-edged sword for restaurant employees: those who were uncomfortable with indoor dining will no longer have to risk their health to pay rent, but with the hit to business this will cause, some will inevitably lose their jobs.

That said, indoor dining has already pushed some to leave. Josh, a bartender at a restaurant in Santa Cruz who also requested anonymity due to fear of retaliation from his employer, quit his job in early October due to concerns over indoor dining, intensified by a health condition that puts him at greater risk of complications from the coronavirus. Early on, he says ownership at his workplace was receptive to hearing workers’ concerns and vowed not to open any sort of dine-in until next year. But after a few months, that changed.

By Madeline Wells
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