On Thursday, May 13, the CDC abruptly announced that fully vaccinated people were no longer required to wear face masks indoors, leading to a fair amount of confusion across the country. Of course, states and counties can disagree, and yesterday the state of California confirmed it won’t be removing indoor masks until the grand reopening scheduled for June 15; the city and county of San Francisco follows suit. As the SF Public Health Department (SFDPH) tweeted, even though 76% of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, there are still unvaccinated people at risk. So for SF diners, it was not news: it is still mandatory to wear masks indoors, in restaurants, bars and other food businesses.
San Francisco is currently in the least restrictive yellow tier, which already left some room for mask confusion. A reminder on the rules: fully vaccinated people are no longer required to wear masks for outdoor dining. Unvaccinated people are still recommended to wear masks outside. And everyone is still required to wear face masks indoors.
The pre-June 15 interim marks a strange cultural moment for the city, when some people are delighted to tear off their masks and enjoy an al fresco cocktail, and others are still anxiously masked for takeout after all the traumas of the past. year. And now restaurants are faced with mask confusion, need to clarify guidelines and, in some cases, come up with their own policies. Eater SF checked in with a few local restaurants to ask how they felt about the whole mask-on-mask scene.
“We feel like we as a people are not yet ready to return to a normal way of life,” says chef Kasem Saengsawang of Farmhouse Kitchen Thai. He says masks “make us feel safer. Our customers appreciate it…the CDC was just too quick. Everyone was in shock. Farmhouse experienced a few other diners trying to enter without masks, including a large group of young people who came to the mission site, refused to put on masks, displayed the CDC announcement on their phones, and are finally pulled out, leaving the staff worried about a one-star Yelp review. And the restaurant has received emails accusing them of not understanding CDC advice, to which they reply that they are following county guidelines.
Farmhouse is keeping its existing mask policies in place, keeping signs and reminding guests. In line with yellow tier rules, they have also started asking outdoor diners if they are vaccinated and asking for proof of vaccination. “How do we know that people are vaccinated? Saengsawang said. “It’s another policy that we have to come up with…it’s another thing for the city to dump on us.”
Gillian Shaw of Black Jet Baking Co. says she feels lucky to live in the small village neighborhood of Bernal Heights, where despite some unease in the city as a whole, her regulars largely wear masks. When she saw the CDC’s update, she immediately logged on and began browsing state and city health sites. For a small, take-out bakery that doesn’t have a lot of seating, she says, “it really didn’t change anything at all for us. It’s far away in my brain. I’m just a day-to-day, week-to-week kind of person, so it doesn’t change anything for us. Baristas faced a few incidents over the weekend, with people without masks demanding sticky buns and saying “But I’m vaccinated”, which the busy bakery lacks the ability to verify.
Black Jet hung a new sign and posted a reminder on social media. “Just talking to my staff, we think if we have to wear them, the customer should have to wear them,” Shaw says. “That seems right to me. Sounds like the sensible answer. If I have to wear this mask for safety reasons, the client should also wear this mask for safety reasons. »
“I felt optimistic, like everyone else…”, says Christ Aivaliotis, co-owner of Kon-Tiki and Palmetto in Oakland. “It was a mix of things. I was excited because I thought maybe we had reached a real turning point. But Aivaliotis first learned of the CDC announcement when he received a text message from an anxious team member; he immediately emailed his health inspector in Alameda County. Aivaliotis says that despite the confusion between the CDC and the state, the restaurants felt the same : most people are respectful a few people get salty and in his opinion it’s always the same people who don’t want to wear masks his main concern was his staff and check in to make sure they get on The one thing Aivaliotis bars get a bit more relaxed about is constantly monitoring outdoor diners to remove masks when servers drop cocktails or fries on the table, which the restaurants have long time described as a losing battle.
But after working as a bartender for more than 10 years, Aivaliotis says he has a habit of asking people to do something they might not want to do and dealing with antics. “In my career, that might involve putting your shirt back on. For me, policing has always been part of the job? ” he says. “We are skilled enough to deal with any type of situation.”