Downtown San Francisco restaurants and have been hit so hard by the COVID pandemic and its aftermath, where people work remotely instead of traveling to the city, that restaurants are crying out to the local government to subsidize them.
Laurie Thomas, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, suggested that the city subsidize restaurants for as long as 12 to 18 months to keep them solvent.
“It’s dealing with the operating expenses for a certain period of time, so they don’t have to make money for that period,” she asserted to the San Francisco Chronicle. “And then maybe you’re going to incentivize some people to come in and take a chance” to open a business.
“I know this is expensive, don’t get me wrong. I don’t know where we get the money,” she added.
The city has already doled out over $83 million to small business, whether by grant, loan or a tax break.
“There are bigger economic forces at play that are keeping people from our core and downtown than the lack of restaurants — one of them being the lack of foot traffic because of hybrid work schedules,” Gloria Chan, spokesperson for the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, stated. “Subsidies going directly to property owners for new restaurants is a massive financial undertaking and likely not feasible without federal or state funding in addition to requiring significant resources and investments from the businesses themselves.”
Thomas cited the 2011 tax break that enticed Twitter and other tech companies to move to the area.
The list of restaurants closing in the Bay Area in October included the Mikkeller Bar in the Tenderloin area, Padrecito, the Soon and Soon Souvenir Shop, Fatted Calf, Bonchon, Holder’s House, Hotline, the Berkeley Bagel Street Café, Augie’s Montreal Deli, Pastis, Broken Record, Campo Fina, A Taste of Denmark, Tribune Tribune, Café Lane 33, and the Kebabery.
In September, the list included Maru Ichi, Seven Stills, El Charro 1947, Chica, The Grove, Alchemy Collective, Zazzi Foods, Smitten Ice Cream, Big 4, Roosevelt Tamale Parlor, Double Play Bar & Grill, and the Sesame Tiny Bakery.
“A lot of us hoped that the return to office would happen, but it didn’t. So we can’t just kind of hope, now, that these areas just organically create themselves,” Thomas concluded.