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Reeling From Virus and Heat Wave, Outdoor Restaurants Grapple With Smoke Hazard

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- Restaurants have been struggling to get by in these extraordinarily challenging times. After dealing with the recent blistering heat wave, businesses are now taking yet another hit.

Wildfires sent smoke all across the Bay Area and beyond and the air quality hit unhealthy levels in many places, including San Francisco.

A few diners enjoyed a multi-course meal under half-covered, half-open domes at high-end Japanese restaurant Hashiri at Mint Plaza Friday evening.

The dining igloos were recently modified to allow for more ventilation to comply with a health department order.

"Definitely, with the wildfires with the smoky air, there's a lot of ashes flying around, there's a lot of people ... hesitant to come out to dine and we completely understand that," said Hashiri general manager Kenichiro Matsuura. "We want them to be as safe as possible. When they feel comfortable, we'll be open here for them."

Matsuura said after the domes made headlines two weeks ago, the restaurant was fully booked through September. It's now seeing some cancellations.

Some restaurants in the Bay Area chose to close entirely due to the poor air quality. Maven, in the Lower Haight, posted on Instagram that it would be closed Wednesday but it reopened Friday night.

While the health department hasn't made any official moves to shut down outdoor dining, it said this week the pollution is so severe that everyone may begin to experience health effects.

Despite the smoke pollution, there was a sizable turnout on Valencia Street in the Mission District Friday night.

"Yesterday the sales were half down and the day before it was even a little bit scarier because it was brown, hazy and it literally looked like the apocalypse," said Curio general manager Patricia Gums.

Friday evening's air quality had improved since the fires first erupted.

"We follow always the mayor, the governor, like what are the city mandates but, then for us, we also have to decide at what point is this unhealthy for our staff and for ourselves, because we are out here too with everyone," Gums said.

Manny Yekutiel owns Manny's on nearby 16th street.

"We're going to just keep watching, the whole point of this is to safely give small businesses a fighting chance to survive and, if the air quality is too dangerous, we'll have to make a game-time decision but, so far, it's alright," he said.

Mayor London Breed told residents that they should close their windows at home and minimize exposure to outside air.

A Spare the Air alert across the Bay Area has been extended through Sunday.

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