Coronavirus impact: San Francisco's legendary cafe at risk of shutting down while other restaurants open for first time

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- During these unprecedented times, San Francisco restaurant institution Cafe Jacqueline is at risk of never opening back up again. All while other eateries are opening up for the very first time. It's a tale of three very different restaurants all just trying to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since 1979, Jacqueline Margulis has been at the helm of her namesake North Beach institution. Serving up savory and sweet soufflés - to loyal customers including Steve Jobs. That is, until the pandemic shut down her restaurant, and something much worse.

"I had to look at her with a tube in her mouth. It was very emotional and rough. I haven't kissed or hugged my mom since because I'm still scared," says Jacqueline's son Ariel Margulis.

For three weeks, Jacqueline battled an infection not related to coronavirus, but one that put her on life support.



As if fighting for her heath wasn't enough, there was the looming issue securing a small business loan for her mounting bills and four loyal employees. Unsuccessful in obtaining a loan, the future looked bleak, especially since pivoting to a different business model like other restaurants just wasn't possible.

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"People have always asked for takeout - but she's like no, it won't work because it's a souffle after all! Souffles are very timely creations and are still good afterward but not the same. So it's not even in her wheelhouse to do any kind of take-out, especially now," says Ariel.

Just about a mile away, new restaurants like Serafina are opening up their doors for the very first time.

"We try to come here with something new!" says Giuseppe Terminiello, co-owner of Serafina Restaurant who smiles and continues on to describe their handmade from scratch gnocchi and sauces.

This restaurant is relying on Roman dishes not offered anywhere else in the city selling pantry items and an existing customer fan base from another restaurant to keep going.

In the East Bay Palmetto Cocktail Bar and Steakhouse opens it's doors for the first time for takeout Monday, May 11. They were fortunate enough to secure some loan money and will rely on creating joy.

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"It's an opportunity to go back to work and spread a little cheer - people want to eat steaks and get drunk!" laughs co-owner Christ Aivaliotis.

As for Ariel, he hopes a GoFundMe will help save Cafe Jacqueline and Jacqueline herself who just turned 84 and has one more surgery to go. Until then, this heartfelt message from the legend herself.

"Thank you for all the support you've given me for the past and for the future and for the present. I appreciate it. Thank you so much."

You can learn more about Cafe Jacqueline at their GoFundMe page here.

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