Coronavirus Outbreak: San Francisco restaurants see 'devastating' drop in business

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- With event after event cancelled in San Francisco over fears of the coronavirus, city restaurant owners say they are feeling the impact in a way they haven't seen since after 9/11.

"I'm old enough to remember 9/11...I remember the drop was 60%," Laurie Thomas, the acting Executive Director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, told ABC7 News.

Her restaurants - Rose's Café and Terzo -- are now seeing a roughly 30% drop, but she says some are hurting even harder. She says some catering companies and larger restaurants that rely on conferences and business events for business have seen drops as large as 70%.

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"I've heard of multiple large cancellations. People having to lay off some of their catering workers," Thomas said.

At Waterbar and Epic Steak on the Embarcadero, the Grand Princess cruise can been from across the bay, serving as a looming reminder of the coronavirus impact.

Managing partner Pete Sittnick said that on Monday night business at both restaurants was down 50% -- something, he added, "that's never happened before."
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"Last night was kind of a disaster," Sittnick said. "From daylight saving time, to the aggressive containment, from the Mayor, to the stock market, to the cruise ship pulling in all happening in one day."

Sittnick said he has no choice but to make adjustments to his business, and that the people he's most concerned about are his employees.
"They're going to lose shifts, and lose income and everybody is kind of nervous and anxious right now to know how that's going to pan out," he explained.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed said the city is working on ways to relieve some of the economic strain.
"What we're looking at is a number of mitigation strategies around taxes, around financial support and other things that will help our business in San Francisco," Breed said. "We want to make sure that we have a comprehensive package."

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On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors did introduce an emergency measure that would help businesses and employees. The measure includes a ban on specified nonpayment evictions during the state of emergency, an ordinance to create a small business rent stabilization loan, a resolution to call on banks to suspend foreclosures, fees and penalties for small businesses during the coronavirus outbreak, and legislation to supplement income for some employees.

In the meantime, both Sittnick and Thomas say they're taking extra measures to ensure their restaurants are clean and that there employees are healthy. They're hoping people will see the impact and make an effort to go out to eat and support the local businesses.

"Everybody is suffering to a different degree, right?" Thomas said. "And to the degree that our local residents can continue to support business, I think that would be super helpful."

Stay up to date with all the Coronavirus school-related closures here.

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