The Garden Club hopes to keep its outdoor dining area | Local News

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Like many businesses that survived the pandemic, the Garden Club, a restaurant in southern San Francisco serving burgers, sandwiches and other casual fare, has faced many challenges since March of last year.

And alfresco dining has helped the business thrive and will likely stick around for the dining experience.

“On sunny days, people want to sit outside. And there are still people who are not comfortable, so they prefer the outdoors, ”said Sal Vitale, the owner of the restaurant.

Initially, Vitale put al fresco dining on hold because he didn’t think it would be efficient enough to support the business and also knew it would be tricky because the restaurant is in a mall, he said.

“It was an interesting race,” he said. “When we closed in March, we were told it was going to take two weeks. And then after two weeks we were told a few more weeks.

During this time he had to get rid of most of his food and freeze what they could and also took food to freeze from his girlfriend and mother. After that, he hired a consultant from the Bar Rescue TV show to help with the reopening. They reopened in early July and had to close five days later because everything was closed again, he said.

“So again we restocked, we had to throw away stuff, very frustrating, very expensive,” he said. “The government was good and was trying to help with [paycheck protection program] money and stuff, but it still wasn’t easy.

In mid-October, it was reopened for a month and a half before having to close again. At this point, Vitale decided to try alfresco dining with the owner’s permission to occupy three parking spaces. The owner is giving it a year to see how it goes and maybe extend it afterwards, he said.

It took trial and error with setting up a tent that was blown over several times before putting a wooden fence around it. And then later a solid roof was put on the fence.

After having to reopen and close several times, the restaurant was able to reopen slowly, going from 25% to 50% to finally 100% last month.

“Both the combination of the exterior and the interior, we are about 80% of our sales from two years ago,” he said.

The outdoor dining area now has a nice setup with a TV, jukebox, and small bar set, and is still being worked on. The outdoor space can accommodate around 35 people and it is hoped that it will be used to reserve for large parties.

The restaurant is also hiring now as it ramps up and gets busier and busier.

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