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COVID: Omicron Variant Throws a Major Wrench into Bay Area Holiday Plans

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- The omicron variant has grabbed a lot of Bay Area residents attention in a hurry. It is quickly having an impact just about everywhere, changing plans, changing behaviors and changing the holidays.

"I'm getting my covid shot," said Benjy Clemmens. "2nd one."

Clemens was lucky enough to have an appointment for that shot. The walk-in line at San Francisco's Kaiser campus was so long some people brought folding chairs. Many of them had the variant on their mind.

"Yeah, I think that 'I'm over it, I'm sick of this, I'm tired of it,' kind of shifted in the last few days to 'Oh, I better take this seriously,' and wake up and start back to March 2020," said Virgina Grandi as she waited for her booster.

And for the industry that suffered so badly in 2020, variant anxiety is like the ghost of holidays past. Some have even decided to close temporarily out of an abundance of caution.

"Of course they're worried," said Kurt Uger, owner of Trellis Restaurant in Menlo Park. "But, you know, you gotta do what you have to do to survive."

Trellis Restaurant was saved by its patio last year. Now customers are demanding it again.

"Well they're very confident that they want to be outside," said Uger. "Most of the reservations, when they make it, they actually require to be outside."

"Definitely," agreed Bistro Vida owner Ali Elsafi. "The capacity inside, 100 seats. We barely put like 30 people inside. Nobody likes to sit inside."

Elsafi said business is slumping again, at a time when it should be roaring with holiday parties. He said this feels like another step backwards. He's hoping it's the last.

"We're still kind of trying to survive, really," Elsafi said. "But we are hoping by next spring, things will subside and we'll get over this. So we're hoping this is the last push."

There's another problem for restaurants at the moment: keeping outdoor diners warm amid chilly winter temperatures.

Owners say finding propane to power outdoor heaters is now one of the biggest challenges in the business as restaurants are all competing with each other for those tanks. Stores are even limiting the number they'll sell, not unlike those at-home COVID testing kits.

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