Bootleg Bar and Kitchen closing, owners blame Van Ness Improvement Project

Wing Wednesday is a popular night at Bootleg Bar and Kitchen on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco.

But the owner says the crowds here now are too little too late. As business is suffering because of construction on Van Ness.

"Not only are we not making rent. We're no longer making the cost of doing business. So my partner was like we have to stop. We don't want to get into serious debt," said Masaye Waugh, the co-owner of Bootleg Bar & Kitchen

"They’re going out of business. It's a shame. They've made this location work and I've seen restaurants come and go over the years. 

Earlier this month the owners decided they couldn't afford to keep the business afloat.  

So they'll have to let go their seven employees. They say it’s all due to the Van Ness Improvement Project happening right outside their doors.Lack of foot traffic has them in the red. 

"The fence went up in September 2017, and by January I noticed a steep decline in business so I looked at the numbers and I was like, 'Wow,' we dropped 30 percent," says Waugh.  

SFMTA'S Goal with the Van Ness project is to ease congestion.   Building designated lanes for buses...And making the community more pedestrian friendly.  However, the project was originally expected to be completed next year. That's now pushed back to 2021.

"There's 150 year old utilities underground, some of them are unmarked. So we had to go in by hand and identify what those utilities were before we moved them," says SFMTA Spokesman Paul Rose

People we spoke with say change is needed but not at the expense of neighborhood businesses. 

"I think it’s nice that they're doing construction and revitalizing the area. It's also sad that there has to be unintended consequences of restaurants and local establishments closing," says San Francisco Resident Jacob Jordan

"We started a business advisory council which gives us advice, helps us explore options of how we can address their concerns including put up more signage letting people know these businesses are open, says Rose.  

SFMTA hired the restaurant to provide lunch for construction crews. However Bootleg owners say those items were offered only after they complained and had supervisors step in.  

"We were never trendy. It wasn't like there was a line out the door and 21-year-old girls were taking Uber over but we were a comfortable place," says Waugh.

The owners have 18 months left on their lease.  They say they've tried to make a deal with their landlords but that didn't work.   The business will remain open until the end of the month.