Despite many restaurants and stores reopening, the way patrons shop, dine, and hang out around the city is fundamentally different due to the coronavirus pandemic. While some San Franciscans have jumped at the opportunity to return to their favorite local spots, many are still apprehensive. Urban students shared a few ways in which they have adapted to the new reality.
When it comes to hanging out, Golden Gate Park has become one of the most popular spots for Urban students. “Before quarantine, I never really went there but now I go at least once a week,” said Ava Reichman ‘22.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports a 600% increase in bike riding in Golden Gate Park. With an abundance of natural attractions and the added safety of being outdoors, Golden Gate Park has become Urban students’ perfect pandemic hang. “My friends and I go to the park a lot,” Pippa Solmssen ‘23 said. “We have found a bunch of cool spots, like the Dutch Windmill.”
Since indoor dining was out of the question until recently, many people have turned to take-out. Will Rubin ‘24 recommended San Tung, a Chinese restaurant on Irving St. Joshua Fine ‘21 said his go-to restaurant is 4505 Burgers & BBQ and Solmssen said she has recently been ordering from Shake Shack.
While takeout food continues to be a popular option for eating during the pandemic, a new way of dining has been introduced: outdoor dining. “I actually like [outdoor dining] a lot,” Reichman said, “It feels a lot more private and you get to just be with the people you’re with.” Reichman also noted that outdoor dining felt more relaxed and allowed her to enjoy the recent beautiful weather in San Francisco.
“I tried this place called Reverie that’s close to Haight,” said Camillia Amiri ‘23, “they have this garden/backyard. It’s pretty and there’s a lot of tables, it felt safe.” However, Amiri also added that “a lot of outdoor seating isn’t really that safe so I think that needs to be improved.”
Many Urban students share Amiri’s concerns about safety in San Francisco. “In this corner store on Geary, two of the customers weren’t wearing masks and even the guy working there wasn’t wearing a mask,” Rubin said. Rubin’s experience is in direct violation of the city’s COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan as business workers are required to wear a face-covering or barrier mask at all times.
“At some points, Dolores Park gets super crowded and no one really wears a mask, which feels pretty unsafe,” Reichman said. Reichman isn’t the only one to feel this way about Dolores Park. On May 4, Mayor London Breed threatened to close the park if social distancing codes continued to be violated.
While many Urban students have been keeping their safety in mind, they have also been concerned about the future of their favorite businesses. Many restaurants and stores have been forced to close due to this challenging time. “I was walking down Haight the other day and saw a lot of stores had closed and it was just sad to see the empty buildings,” said Reichman. Solmssen was also saddened by the closure of so many restaurants and stores, particularly Locanda, a sister restaurant to Delfina that Solmssen has been going to since she was 5 years old.
Small businesses have been particularly affected by COVID-19. According to data collected by the World Economic Forum, as of September 2020 about half of the small retail businesses in San Francisco closed due to COVID-19. They also report that as of September 2020, 65% of SF leisure and hospitality businesses (e.g. restaurants, bars, hotels, theme parks, etc.) have closed due to COVID-19.
In order to help small local businesses, Rubin encourages others to dine at small businesses like Pho Huynh Sang, a Vietnamese restaurant on Clement Street, as he thought it could use some extra help during this challenging time.
Solmssen spotlighted Anthony’s Cookies, a small shop located in the Mission. The cookie shop was founded by Anthony Lucas who began his business by selling cookies all around San Francisco out of the back of his car. “I’m not sure how they’re doing but I would just recommend supporting them. They’re a great business,” said Solmssen.
Beyond these specific businesses, Reichman urges the Urban community to “support local businesses instead of big chains” during this difficult time.