Arlequin, Elite Cafe, Jardiniere, Blowfish Sushi restaurants all close in tough San Francisco economy

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Labor costs keep rising and restaurant staff is hard to find in a tight labor market and city that's so expensive it's pushing people out. On top of that, customers are often unwilling to pay the higher prices that restaurants need to charge to keep their doors open. These are just a few reasons San Francisco restaurants are closing.

In the past few weeks, several stalwarts in the city have closed or are on their way out.

Chef Traci Des Jardins announced her famous fine dining restaurant, Jardiniere, will close at the end of April after 21 years of award winning food in busy Hayes Valley.

LIST: Historic Bay Area Restaurant closures

Around the corner on Hayes Street, Arlequin Cafe closed this week. White paper now wraps the windows instead of their sandwiches.

In the Mission District, Blowfish Sushi locked up and closed shop. The owners left a note saying after 20 years, their to-die-for sushi concept was actually dead.

And after 38 years, New Orleans-inspired Elite Cafe on Fillmore Street announced they are closing after Easter Brunch and bar service.

"I hate to hear that, definitely a popular brunch spot to me," said Jennifer Shappley about Elite Cafe. Shappley lives in San Francisco and says she enjoys eating out, but also likes to order in. "I do often do delivery from local restaurants, so I hope it still helps them."

"Delivery has taken a really big chunk out of a lot of restaurants," said Gwyneth Borden, the executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association.

Elite Cafe owner, Andrew Chun, is on GGRA's board and says their, "weekday business was a challenge. Delivery services cut into weekday traffic."

"For many, when they're starting to crunch the numbers, it isn't actually a benefit," said Borden. "They're actually seeing a decline of in-person traffic in their restaurants. Also, the delivery services take a huge chunk, sometimes as much as 30 percent, out of the overall bill."

RELATED: Popular French fine dining restaurant Jardiniere closing after 21 years in San Francisco

To increase revenue, Elite even brought in Spacious, a new tech venture that lets people work from restaurants that are closed during the day. Several people on laptops and cellphones occupied Elite's famous booths Thursday afternoon while the restaurant was closed. A sharp contrast to the four-week-old, fast-casual restaurant, Noosh, a few doors down, that had a line out the door for lunch.

Arlequin Cafe on Hayes Street, has a slightly different closure story than Elite Cafe.

Bill Russell-Shapiro, who owns Arlequin, along with four other food and wine businesses in Hayes Valley, says he tried to make adjustments to his cafe business to keep it going, but it didn't take.

"We couldn't narrow the menue and keep our audience and when we tried to raise prices a little, we lost 20 percent of our busines. People were just very used to what we were doing and I was happy with what we were doing. We couldn't change it, without affecting the quality," said Russell-Shapiro.

Russell-Shapiro says he was losing money, because the business, which was brisk, still didn't make up for the fair living wage he wanted to pay his employees. So after 20 years, he closed this week. "We just couldn't make the numbers work and do right by the people who work here and satisfy our customers."

Russell-Shapiro says he offered all of his Arlequin employees severance or a new job at one his other restaurants. He says that he's working on a new concept for the Arlequin space.
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