04 May Jonathan Cartu Publishes: SF could permanently lose half its restaurants to coronavir…
Half of San Francisco restaurants could close permanently because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to an estimate from the Golden Gate Restaurant Association.
Laurie Thomas, the association’s executive director, emphasized that the figure was highly uncertain. “Let’s hope that I’m wrong,” she said, adding that the association is conducting further research to get a clearer picture.
But her estimate is based on alarming pieces of evidence. In late March, just over a week after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered people across the state to shelter in place, the California Restaurant Association sent a letter to Newsom saying that 20% to 30% of restaurants across California could close permanently “unless there are bold measures taken by the state.”
Since that time, it’s become clearer that there’s no near-term endpoint — and “the longer the lockdown continues … the higher (the) probability of business failures,” Thomas said.
An April survey of small, independent restaurants by New York’s James Beard Foundation found that on average, only 1 in 5 owners had at least some confidence they would be able to reopen after a lockdown.
Many of San Francisco’s more than 3,600 restaurants had already been struggling before the pandemic, with high costs and time-consuming regulations. Now, those that remain open can offer only takeout or delivery and often contend with drastically reduced demand.
Any restaurant that “reopens” would almost certainly need to have less seating, with tables spaced farther apart.
San Francisco’s many small restaurants will particularly struggle since they generally have less ability to find or tap funding sources, Thomas said.
Thomas said that a friend offered an apt description for how the general difficulties facing San Francisco establishments yielded to the pandemic: “It’s like we had stage 4 cancer and then we got hit by a pickup truck.”