San Francisco businesses facing losses during Van Ness construction project

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Small businesses along San Francisco's Van Ness corridor are suffering because of a major city road project.

Small businesses along San Francisco's Van Ness corridor are suffering because of a major city road project.

After three years in business, Masaye Waugh says she's shaking off her losses and closing out for good at The Bootleg Bar & Kitchen.

Waugh says the trouble started 13 months ago, "a fence went up in September 2017, just a chain metal fence and I was like hmm." Over the past year, that fence has expanded into a full blown construction site right in front of her bar on

Van Ness Avenue and Green Street. "One day, I showed up and there was no entrance to my storefront, so I said we're closed today, maybe they'll fix it tomorrow. The next day, we're open for business, it wasn't fixed."

For nine months, Waugh reached out to City Hall and SFMTA for help and was finally given a large vinyl banner, by the city, with her bar's name, to hang outside. "A sign isn't really going to keep your business afloat when you have no more parking spaces and nowhere for people to pull up and get delivery orders and there's rubble outside your door and no sidewalk."

Waugh says the City offered her free advertising on the side of buses, as long as she paid to print the banners. But, that cost $1,200, which Waugh says she didn't have, since her bar has been losing money all year.

RELATED: Weekend closure on Van Ness in SF impacting businesses

Waugh says business is now down 50 percent and that she and her co-owner have decided their last night will be next week, on Halloween.

She wrote a letter to Mayor London Breed and Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Catherine Stefani, and said "they didn't have much response."

In that letter, she spelled out 15 common sense demands to help businesses survive the construction. She also says she is organizing a rally at City Hall on Tuesday, October 30 at 2:30 pm.

Read the full letter here.

The $316 million Van Ness Improvement Project is already two years behind schedule, but SFMTA's spokesman, Paul Rose, says the agency is trying to help merchants on the fractured corridor by holding meetings and trying to make clear that the businesses behind fences
are more visible. "We've put up promotional materials on our construction sites and our fences to ensure people know these businesses are open."

But a sign is not keeping customers inside Ayden Dornan's family restaurant, Alborz Persian Cuisine, on Van Ness Avenue and Sutter Street.

There was one person eating dinner at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night.

"The construction is horrible out front. All of us employees, we talk about it every single day, how it's just destroying our business."

Dornan says they couldn't accommodate a large wedding party Tuesday because of the construction. "They come in they're asking where am I gonna park, do you have valet? No, because construction, so it's a huge hassle, people they left. Our wedding reception left today because of that."

The Van Ness Improvement Project is now scheduled to be complete in early 2021.
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