Coronavirus impact: Trick Dog, SF flower market among businesses to lay off workers amid COVID-19 crisis

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The loss of jobs from the coronavirus lockdown could be staggering. One think tank - the Economic Policy Institute - says California could lose about 600,000 private-sector jobs by the summer and that roughly a quarter of those jobs will be in hospitality and small businesses.

Many San Francisco businesses say they have already laid off their workers, including award-winning cocktail bar Trick Dog. The usually packed bar is now temporarily shut down and boarded up with plywood.

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Owner Josh Harris says he made the tough decision to temporarily shut down both Trick Dog and his second restaurant, Bon Voyage - meaning his 50 employees are now out of a job.

"It was very emotional for everyone and everyone is like family," Harris told ABC7 News. "They are now collecting unemployment, which really feels just like a consolation prize that's used to justify this situation that we've found ourselves in."

Harris' hope is that he'll be able to reopen and rehire all of his employees - but says there's no guarantee. He's trying creative ways to make ends meet, including launching a new "Bottle Club," which he says is essentially a wine club but for fine spirits. Still, it might not be enough.

"Absolutely," he responded when asked if it's fair to say he might have to close permanently. "This is not something that we'll get through unscathed."

It's the heartbreaking reality for so many restaurant, bar and small business owners across the Bay Area. You can see it on GoFundMe - page after page of campaigns set up to help struggling businesses.

Alfie Spears is one of Harris' employees who up until last week worked as General Manager at Trick Dog. Spears started a GoFundMe to raise money for his staff.

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"The entire industry in the most expensive place in the world to live now has lost their paychecks," Spears said. "I don't think I can do unemployment for much longer."

And it's not just the food industry. Lauren Borden, the manager of Delano Nursery, started a GoFundMe for employees of the San Francisco Flower Market, which has been open since 1912. The market had to abruptly shut down last week, forcing florists to discard thousands of flowers in a nearby alley. The market's 300 employees are also now of work.

"I started the GoFundMe because I know a lot of the employees at the flower market are living paycheck to paycheck and having to skip one of these paychecks is devastating for a lot of these families," Borden said.

"It's going to be hard for people to bounce back after this and some of them might not make it," she added.

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