San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)
DINING OUT FOR LIFE RETURNS TO SUPPORT SAN FRANCISCO AIDS FOUNDATION AND LOCAL RESTAURANTS
"WE MUST REMEMBER, ‘AS WE GIVE, WE SHALL RECEIVE.'" -Nati Ramirez, Co-owner Of Don Ramon’s Mexican Restaurant
Local restaurants oftentimes form the backbone of our communities and create close ties in surrounding neighborhoods. Though famous for tight margins and long hours, restaurateurs can be counted upon to support community causes, even when faced with challenging times like these. As restaurants slowly reopen with outdoor dining and limited indoor seating, the darkest days of the pandemic may be finally behind us. And like our restaurants, Dining Out for Life San Francisco (DOFL) has had to adapt in 2021.
Dining Out for Life is an annual event that signals the arrival of spring in San Francisco. DOFL started as a way to inspire important conversations about HIV at restaurant tables throughout the Bay Area. Each year, San Francisco restaurants became community dinner tables where diners could learn and help fund the critical work of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF).
DOFL Ambassadors volunteered at participating restaurants to share the important work of SFAF and answer questions about HIV from a concerned and curious public. For 19 years, restaurants signed on to promote DOFL and to donate 25% or more of their evening proceeds to SFAF, resulting in annual donations totalling more than $250,000.
As restaurants closed in March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual April event suddenly had to shift to a new format. As many of the city’s most beloved restaurants shuttered temporarily or permanently, organizers realized it was no longer feasible to ask restaurants to donate a portion of their proceeds.
Instead, SFAF encouraged participants to order from a local restaurant while also making a separate donation to the organization. And while it was a tall ask, the 2020 event still raised over $100,000 to support sexual health and substance use services. This year, DOFL is back with a new format that invites every one of us to participate in a very special set of events specifically designed to herald the return of an important annual tradition in support of San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
“It is very important to support the services of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation at ALL times,” says Nati Ramirez, co-owner of Don Ramon’s Mexican Restaurant. “Even during this pandemic, we need to support each other more. I have to tell you that when Don Ramon’s opened in 1982, we were very much aware of the AIDS epidemic and we were very supportive as a community in reaching out to those affected. The HIV epidemic hit home with many of our employees as well as many of their friends and families who suffered through the years. We must remember, ‘As we give, we shall receive.’”
In 2021, DOFL is expanding from one evening to five nights, making it possible for the Bay Area community to support more restaurants and SFAF at the same time. Each restaurant will host a special DOFL menu, meal kit, or specially marked food or beverage items. These offerings will cost slightly more than a regular meal so diners can support SFAF without asking the restaurant to reduce its much-needed income from the evening.
In lieu of DOFL’s famous onsite ambassadors, this year will feature a nightly broadcast that will range from culinary panel interviews to story slams, and drag trivia. The restaurant and San Francisco community will once again come together to celebrate life, learn about health justice for those affected by HIV, and support the many programs at SFAF that serve more than 25,000 people each year.
“As a neighborhood restaurant founded in the Castro in 1981, we experienced first-hand the devastation of the AIDS crisis,” says Alicia Vanden Heuvel, manager of La Mediterranee Noe. “Now that we are celebrating our 40th year as a Castro legacy business, we are reminded of what it means to serve your community, through good times and bad. It is so important to continually support organizations that keep us healthy and we know that the health of our community can never be taken for granted.”
Over 25 restaurants have committed to participating in the 2021 DOFL. As always, the participants represent the spectrum of San Francisco’s world-renowned culinary scene. From the Marina to the Castro, Bernal Heights to Pacific Heights, participating restaurants present Asian, Italian, Mediterranean, and American cuisine, among others. There are pizzerias, bistros, lounges, and a bowling club, and diners can choose if they want to dine indoors, outdoors, or take out to eat at home.
The dining options are sure to grow even greater as we move toward the event week for Dining Out for Life San Francisco, April 26-30. Mark your calendar to make a difference during this year’s weeklong event.
Visit the www.doflsf.org to learn more.