Lee's Deli permanently closes all locations after 40 years in downtown SF

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Thursday, February 29, 2024
Lee's Deli permanently closes all locations after 40 years in SF
Lee's Deli is permanently closing all locations in San Francisco after 40 years serving the downtown area.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Lee's Deli once had 16 locations in and around San Francisco. Twelve of those locations were in the city's Financial district just a few years ago, but the final two restaurants just closed for good.

"COVID has been the disease for us and we tried to open six to eight stores in the beginning in 2021, and it was ugly. There was just nobody around - we can't do business," said owner Lee Quan.

And while some people have come back to work, Quan, who started and ran Lee's Deli, says, those customers are mainly there just three days a week. For a breakfast and lunch restaurant in or near San Francisco's Financial District, he says that doesn't pay the bills.

MORE: 5 days in the office: SF small businesses say it may be the only way they can survive

Lee points to inflation, the multiple minimum wage hikes in recent years in San Francisco, and a lack of support from city and state leaders after COVID.

"Did they do anything to really help us? No. What things they did were insufficient to deal with the problem. We needed people to come back in and we needed the homeless people out," said Quan, "When the pandemic hit we had 12 stores - let's say all those stores were stocked with food, each one of those stores would be stocked with food that would last for weeks or month so when we could not open, all that food ended up going in the garbage can!"

Office vacancy rates in San Francisco are the highest out of any major city in America. San Francisco has been one of the slowest to recover after the pandemic as a large percentage of people are now involved in remote work.

MORE: San Francisco now at 35% office vacancy rate, highest ever recorded: data

Wednesday night, we spoke San Francisco Mayor London Breed about the current struggle in the Financial District.

"Revitalization takes time. We've been through a global pandemic. Shopping patterns have changed and we need to adjust to that and reduce all the fees and taxes and barriers that make it difficult for people to thrive and business in San Francisco, and that's exactly what I'm doing," said Mayor Breed.

Lee, who is now nearly 80, says he's leaned on faith and family in the last few months. We even had a good laugh when I learned that he still has dim sum in his freezer (and has been eating it quite a bit).- leftovers after his final two stores closed on 280 Battery Street and 303 2nd Street. He has been holding his head up high for lasting 40 years, and remembering the good times with family.

"If I had to do it again, I'd go Richmond or Sunset - one of the neighborhoods - but not downtown, that is for sure," he said.

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