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Shared Spaces Program gives San Francisco restaurants hope

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – Under a new proposal announced by Mayor London Breed Tuesday, businesses across San Francisco will soon be able to use sidewalks, partial streets, parks and plazas to conduct business. 

It’s called the shared spaces progra, and city leaders say once restaurant dining is allowed under the health order, this would open up the opportunity for outdoor restaurant seating.

Restaurant owners in North Beach and the city’s Fillmore District say this is a step in the right direction. 

“I think it’s a great beginning,” said Francesco Covucci. He owns three Italian restaurants in North Beach. Normally Covucci is tending to customers at Il Casaro, Barbara Pinseria and Pasta Pop Up. But these days, business is much slower. 

​​”It’s probably the worst time that we could ever imagine,” said Covucci. “Having the restaurants, paying the rent and our employees with no business? It’s definitely the worst time.”

​Covucci says delivery and take out over the last couple of months garnered just 30 or 40-percent of what their normal operations would take in ​but hearing about the San Francisco shared spaces program, gives him a little hope​.

​”I think it’s a great beginning, it’s great for the restaurants to be able to use parking spaces or reach off site, because we’re gonna lose seats due to limited capacity inside,” Covucci said.

​The program will give businesses access to use sidewalks, partial streets, parks and plazas to conduct their business. ​

According to the Mayor’s announcement — given that social distancing requirements will likely continue to apply until there is a vaccine for the virus, the Shared Spaces Program will support businesses by expanding their ability to operate into outdoor public spaces, providing additional space for required distancing among employees and customers.

Over on Fillmore Street, Noosh Mediterranean restaurant already opened up a to go window, giving them access to sell right on the street.  ​

​”We’re really excited about the shared space program,” said Noosh CEO John Litz.  “We are fortunate we have street side windows so they open up right onto Fillmore. We’ll have a deli counter directly out of the front.. and we already have self serve kiosks so everything is self pay and touchless.” 

​Litz says every business owner right now is thinking about survival in this new normal, and he feels the Shared Space Program makes sense.  

​”We’re just looking forward to generating revenue again like I’m sure every restaurant is,” said Litz. “We’ll get through it. It’s definitely a challenge but you have to be agile and you have to move and change with what the new world looks like. ​And the new world looks like less people inside of restaurants.”

​One thing both owners mentioned was the need for help when it comes to rent protections, some landlords have been able to be lenient while others have not.

The program will allow individual businesses or local merchant associations to apply for a no-cost, expedited permit to share the sidewalk or parking lane for business purposes.

Final details of the shared space initiative and permit process will be complete by mid-June​.

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