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COVID: Bars, Restaurants Hopeful As San Francisco Loosens Certain Mask Rules - 'A Step In The Right Direction'

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – While San Francisco is set to loosen certain indoor mask rules as soon as October 15, the mandate will remain in effect in the city's bars and restaurants for now.

Starting next Friday, masks won't be required in settings where regular groups of fully vaccinated people gather, such as offices, gyms, and religious gatherings, if the employer or host can verify the group is 100% vaccinated. Neighboring Marin County is set to also loosen mask rules in some settings on that day.

But bars and restaurants are not included in this phase of pulling back restrictions. Guests will still be required to wear masks when they're not actively eating or drinking.

"I think that this new ordinance is going to confuse a lot of people," said Umberto Gibin, the owner of Perbacco and Barbacco in the Financial District. "They'll come in, they'll say, 'How come we have to wear masks when everyone else is not wearing a mask?' That's what I think is going to happen."

Gibin said though restaurants are not included in the city's move, it's a promising step in the right direction.

"When I first heard that offices were included, I was very happy because we in the Financial District, we depend tremendously on people coming back to work in the office, particularly at lunch time," he told KPIX 5. "It is obviously a step in the right direction knowing that eventually, the masks are coming off. It means infections are down."

Ben Bleiman, the president of the SF Bar Owner Alliance, also sees the step as progress, even though bars are not included.

"I'm actually excited about this even though it doesn't involve us. The reason is, it's just a step in the right direction, and I think it'll make people who are maybe, on the fence a little bit, more comfortable with going out and increase our customer base. It couldn't come at a better time," he said. "The difference between breaking even and actually making money is often a few more people."

Bleiman also gave the city and health leaders behind the decision kudos for making sure the bar community wasn't surprised.

"There was no surprise that we weren't involved in it. I got to give them kudos for making sure that we weren't surprised, because that would have been a tough pill to swallow if we didn't know it was coming," Bleiman said. "We're looking forward to having future conversations, and I hope that as soon as we are able, we can stop the masking. But for now, we kind of get it."

The Golden Gate Restaurant Association gave KPIX 5 the following statement:

"We are pleased to see the announcement from the city of San Francisco today around the roll back of certain mask mandates on October 15th, especially the mandate regarding offices. We are hopeful that by San Francisco allowing mask mandates to be relaxed in office settings, companies will reconsider their return to office policies and pull them forward to this fall. Our restaurants, bars, and cafes in San Francisco's urban center – including the Financial District - need foot traffic and office workers downtown in order to survive.

We also appreciate that the Bay Area Health Officers have now announced specific metrics that will allow for the lifting of the indoor mask mandates as this will help us with planning for when we will see the mandates dropped more widely.  We understand that many will be disappointed that restaurants and bars are not included in the October 15th loosening, but we appreciate the need to protect the health and well-being of our staffs and their families (many with children under age 12), as well as our customers and their families.

We continue to urge everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated, as this is the best weapon in our continued fight against Covid-19."

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