SAN FRANCISCO – On the steps of San Francisco City Hall, small business owners, particularly those who run gyms and hair salons came out to protest the current COVID-19 restrictions, saying they need to open up now to have a chance at survival.
“We haven’t had any business, we’ve had about a 80 percent loss,” said Michael Jigalin owner of Jigalin Fitness.
Around the city, it’s hard to miss the ‘For Lease’ signs and plywood on windows. According to the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, 1300 small businesses are not in operation right now.
“Before the pandemic, we were really about a 7 percent commercial vacancy rate, a 7 percent storefront vacancy rate in San Francisco – that 7 percent has skyrocketed to over 50 percent,” says Jay Cheng, public policy director for the Chamber.
While not closed, Sharkey Laguana, owner of Bandago, a company that rents touring vans to bands, has seen his business fall off a cliff.
“We’ve been able to make up a little bit of what we’ve lost, just by catering to a different market, but most of our business has collapsed, because our key demographic was the music industry,” said Laguana. “We’re running about 30 percent of where we were last year,”
Laguana says how long he continues to hang his shingle, depends on the banks.
“It’s not sustainable over the long run, eventually they’ll pull the plug and they as is most often the case with businesses, is our lenders. So, right now I work for the banks.”
At Tuesday’s protest, business owners were asking that reopenings not be based on sector, per state guidelines, but on a case-by-case basis.
“Things have not gotten easier to do business in San Francisco, even through the pandemic and I don’t think folks they have gotten the support they need from elected officials from the federal, state or local level,” said Cheng.