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COVID outbreaks, low staffing forcing Bay Area restaurants to close again

Surge in coronavirus cases hits still-recovering restaurant business
Surge in coronavirus cases hits still-recovering restaurant business 03:07

SAN FRANCISCO -- Getting a seat at a table in San Francisco or anywhere else in the Bay Area this weekend might be tough. After avoiding COVID-19 for so long, restaurants find themselves hit by the one-two punch of low staffing, on top of COVID-19 outbreaks.

Inside the kitchen at Handroll Project on Guerrero in the Mission, Executive Chef Geoffrey Lee is trying to channel his nervous energy for the restaurant's official grand opening, which he hopes will be tomorrow. That all depends on the results of some PCR tests, as Handroll Project and many other restaurants have been hit hard by the wave of COVID-19 sweeping the city. 

"It just makes my head spin because I am so anxious to get everything started," Lee told KPIX 5.

The restaurant had to cancel its soft opening over the weekend because of what co-owner Tan Troung calls the perfect storm of staff sick with COVID-19 and not enough staff to work in the first place. 

"We are not 100 percent fully staffed. We are still hiring. If anybody is looking for work, come see us, especially sushi chefs," said Troung. "It is a challenge. We are not fully staffed. That's why we had to close down this past weekend - we don't have the staff to fill in the gaps for us."

Many other restaurants are finding themselves in the same boat and are closing doors temporarily.

"If you don't have a chef and sous chef and a cook - you can't make that meal," said Laurie Thomas, Executive Director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. "Or if you don't have anybody to serve the customers. So we're not out of this yet,.

For Troung and Lee, actually opening Handroll Project isn't their only headache. 

"My other restaurant Hina ... we actually have to shut down this weekend because we have some sick staff members there and that's a small operation as well," Troung said.

In the meantime, they're crossing their fingers and hoping for negative results on rapid and PCR tests to actually open Wednesday. 

"Right we're at the finish line, people get sick. So we have to postpone a little bit and hopefully everybody is healthy and strong tomorrow."


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