As a manager of Lao restaurant Hawker Fare, Dolly Valdez Bautista is unsure how her staff will make it through the shutdown that begins Sunday at 10 p.m. and returns all restaurants and bars to takeout-only.
“I’m scared of how I’m going to have to tell my staff that I don’t have shifts for them,” Bautista said. “One of my employees just got a new apartment so he could spend more time with his kids, and he’s really worried, and he’s trying to smile through it, and I’m trying to smile through it.”
Pre-pandemic, the restaurant received around 200 orders from customers a day, sometimes more, she said. Lately, the business only gets about 10.
It’s managed to stay in business through partnerships with local food programs, like SF New Deal, that pay local restaurants to make and deliver free food to the elderly, the unhoused and other residents facing food insecurity. The flow of revenue allowed Bautista to regrow the staff from the skeleton crew of four to about 15.
Unfortunately, Bautista said, organizations like SF New Deal cannot sustain every struggling restaurant in the city for the duration of the pandemic.
Now that outdoor dining will stop, Bautista thinks she will have to go back to only four people on staff, even though she knows every employee needs the hours.
She began to cry as she sat in one of the booths of the restaurant’s $10,000 parklet space, which they only completed in November, and now can’t use for at least a month.
“The people who didn’t adhere and contributed to the shutdown because they didn’t want to mask up … the people who were not being considerate, I just would like to say: this is what you brought to the families who are just trying to get through,” Bautista said.
For Alexandra Gerteis, owner of Etcetera Wine Bar on Valencia Street, the writing had been on the wall for days.
Spiking Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in San Francisco made her wonder about the possibility of closing again, and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Thursday address on the worsening spread throughout the state made closure only a matter of time. She finally received news of Mayor London Breed’s announced shelter-in-place order from a member of the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association.
“What I’m hoping for is more help from the state of California, if not from the federal government, to help small businesses go through that,” Gerteis said.
Despite applying for “pretty much all of them,” Gerteis said she did not receive any local grants. She did qualify for a Paycheck Protection Program loan, which has loan forgiveness options, but she has yet to hear how much will be forgiven.
Etcetera’s revenue over the next month could be 60 percent lower than the total for November, and about 90 percent lower than the monthly totals in the summer, Gerteis estimated. She recalled that business was best after Mayor London Breed announced the Shared Spaces Program, which allowed businesses to build small parklets in front of their storefronts for outdoor dining. For the next month, at least, those will be closed.
The third-to-last evening of outdoor dining for 2020 was quite lively at the Napper Tandy, an Irish bar. The establishment has outdoor seating areas wrapped around the corner of South Van Ness Avenue and 24th Street.
Owner Marissa McGarr had been working at the time of the mayor’s announcement and only found out when her husband called to tell her.
McGarr has been running her bar for 16 years, but in 2018 she made the decision to buy the building, including the two units above her bar.
Some of McGarr’s tenants moved out three months ago after rental housing prices began falling this year, and the four-bedroom unit has remained empty. Now, McGarr is worried she will not be able to keep up with all her bills, including her property taxes.
“I’m due $19,500, and that’s due on December 10,” McGarr said.
But McGarr remains optimistic that her business and staff will make it through, saying she made it through the last several months and can make it one more.
“I’m not shutting down,” McGarr said, “I’m not getting defeated, but at this point we have to keep everybody safe and just try to get through it.”
While most local restaurateurs who spoke with Mission Local said they agreed with the mayor that closures were necessary, others dissented.
“It’s all a scam,” said one man who identified himself as the owner of a local establishment.
Another restaurant owner expressed the unsustainability of the current situation for his business while, behind him, two of his employees could be seen standing around with no work to do.
“Downtown is empty, people are moving out. People don’t want to spend money because they don’t have money and eventually we’re going to close down. And then the government can’t tax us and more people will lose their jobs.”
In the end, the man asked Mission Local not to include his name or the name of the business, saying the virus has become very politicized and he’d like to stay out of it.