SF bar owners speak out after being shut down for violating health order

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The owners of two bars that were temporarily shut down by the City of San Francisco for violating the public health order spoke to the ABC7 I-Team about the steps they took to reopen their businesses safely.

According to the San Francisco Dept. of Public Health, 11 businesses, mainly bars and nightclubs, were temporarily shut down since March for failing to comply with public health guidelines. All have since reopened and are now in compliance.

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The owners of the Midway and the Knockout were both cited in late July.

"We did open up a little earlier in July," said John Segura, owner of the Knockout. "We had a few too many people show up."

Same story with Pete Glikshtern, owner of the Midway. He received a cease and desist letter from the San Francisco City Attorney's Office.

"It said we needed to cease operations immediately," Glikshtern said.

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A records request from the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) confirmed a majority of the violations included:

  • Operating and serving food without proper approval.
  • Serving alcohol without bona fide meal.
  • Irresponsible social crowding, gathering, dancing.
  • No regards to proper social distancing.

ABC7 spoke with Maggie Weiland, the Executive Director of the San Francisco Entertainment Commission, who also leads the city's CERT inspection team.

"Most concerning was the unmasking, dancing and congregating," she said. "None of that is allowed."

Several of the businesses cited said some of the requirements, like serving food with any drink, weren't as clear in the beginning of the enforcement period.

"We weren't sure of what we were supposed to be doing," said Segura. "Just from a pure business standpoint, we needed to do something to survive. The PPP loans only go so far."

Andrea Kirk, the assistant General Manager of the Midway agreed.

"In the beginning there was a training process in trying to figure out whose responsibility it was to enforce social distancing," she said. "Initially, I think it was not done as well as it could have been and that was 100 percent a learning process."

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Both the Midway and the Knockout passed the health department's re-inspection and the owners made a thorough effort to reopen safely.

At the Knockout, Segura created a new food menu, new signs to enforce masking rules, and built a new parklet to adhere to social distancing.

"They are seated six feet apart, and they're asked to wear masks," said Segura. "If some people don't abide by that we always remind them you have to wear your mask when you're eating and when you're drinking."

At the Midway, the owners have transformed their outdoor space to a socially-distanced outdoor restaurant serving food and drinks. All menus and orders are contactless.

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Glikshtern said their new outdoor setting can accommodate roughly 100 people in small groups of four spanning two blocks of the property.

"We do a pretty good job keeping people in their little square like you see in Dolores Park," he said.

The city's inspection team has visited the Midway a half dozen times since the shutdown, mainly for noise complaints. But, Glikshtern said they've been unfairly targeted by the health department.

"There's been times when DPH (Dept. of Public Health) has been flat out obstructionist," said Glikshtern. "It's frustrating because you feel like...what happened to this whole idea... we're in this together."

But if you ask the city's CERT inspection team, they're just doing their job.

"Some of these investigations we've had to educate on a new rule or a new change," said Weiland. "When you're gathering, not wearing a mask, it's not that you're immune to it. You have to be aware that it could be you."

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