COVID-19 rent crisis: Woman who lost everything in Tubbs Fire now struggling to keep her business afloat

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In San Francisco, across the state and the nation, the COVID-19 virus is infecting more than people. For large and small businesses that remain closed, it is impacting their health.

Since when, if ever, has San Francisco's once-thriving Union Street appeared so foreboding and empty? What used to be a small business haven, now has the feel of a ghost town in a metropolis.

It is boarded up and locked.

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The words, "Closed until further notice," have become a tired, redundant lament.

"Devastation. Complete and utter devastation," of a kind that Katherine Goldman has never seen before.

Three years ago, The Tubbs Fire took her home in Fountaingrove.

She and her family still rent a house in Windsor.

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"It is almost like I have lost everything in my life. What else is there to lose?"

Now, COVID-19 could claim her Katherine's waxing business, called Stript Wax Bar.

She leases storefronts in San Francisco, Oakland, Lafayette, San Jose and Los Angeles. They are all closed, with a combined $40,000 dollars in rent overdue to nine different landlords.

"One says I need to pay rent just to begin negotiating. He is holding my rent as ransom for future payments."

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Aside from the COVID-19 Element, it's basic economics. When small businesses have no customers, they cannot pay rents. Then, landlords can't pay their mortgages. We're talking symbiotic relationships.

"I went from making a lot of revenue to zero overnight. And laying off every single one of my employees," said Katherine.

ABC7 News spoke with some of her landlords, Tuesday. The more reasonable among them describe a financial landscape no one has seen or dealt with before. Omar Sheikh owns the property on Union Street.

"Is there a playbook for this?" we asked.

"Absolutely not. Work with your tenants and be creative and fair. Nobody wants a vacancy."

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