San Francisco Shared Spaces extends outdoor dining into 2021

Outdoor dining fans in San Francisco will get a chance to continue eating al fresco into the new year. Restaurants say the Shared Spaces program is a lifeline keeping their businesses afloat.

The program that has allowed so many businesses to expand out of their building out onto the sidewalk and beyond was set to expire at the end of the year, but now it will run for at least six more months through June 2021.

Since the Shared Spaces program in San Francisco got started in the spring as a way for businesses to remain open with Covid-19 restrictions in place, shops and restaurants have transformed the streets with small parklets, each one a unique way to shop or dine al fresco.

Laurie Thomas heads up the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and also runs a pair of restaurants including Rose's Cafe. She says the shared space program has been a lifeline for businesses on the brink of closing.

"If we didn't have that many of us would not be able to be open," said Thomas. "I would not be open."

Thomas says that extension is important, it allows businesses to plan, and decide if investing in an outdoor facility, which can cost thousands of dollars is worth it.

"Especially since now we're not sure what indoor dining is going to look like, you know, we're at 25% right now, but the customers aren't really that interested in going inside yet," said Thomas. "So, having the ability to seat outside is really critical."

San Francisco Mayor London Breed has advocated for shared spaces since the program started and called for the extension into next year.

"This is, I think, something that really works to support and lift the restaurant industry and also brings people together in all our various communities," said Mayor Breed. "So, I'm a big fan, I'm excited about it and it's really making the city feel alive again."

The city's Economic Recovery Task Force has already said the Shared Spaces program will run as long as the Covid restrictions are in place. San Francisco is also already considering making some parts of the Shared Streets program permanent.