San Francisco bars battling to stay alive

As of Friday, the state of California will allow bars, breweries, wineries, hotels, bowling alleys and miniature golf courses to reopen; if and only if county health officials allow it.

COVID-19 has killed hundreds of thousands of businesses and millions of jobs, that won't return. Bars are among the hardest hit.

The San Francisco Bar Owner Alliance is begging Mayor Breed and Board of Supervisors to allow them to reopen well before mid-August as now ordered.  

Many are already gone with more to fail well before August.

"Bars are gonna be severely impacted. We're gonna lose a lot of them through this crisis without severe support from the federal government," said Gwyneth Borden of the Bay Area Hospitality Coalition. 

Spike Krouse is an owner of two San Francisco bars which employed 35 people, some for years. He's now down to just two.

"I'd be lucky if I'm at 20% of my payroll when I reopen," said Mr. Krouse. Krouse says he has now gone through all of his reserves and is now surviving on his own retirement savings and borrowed money.

Federal aid is out of the question. "They're not helping the small bar owners, you know, especially the independent ones," said Krouse. The devastation is nationwide.

"On the on-premise side, that's bars, taverns, restaurants; over $8 billion lost in sales in just April alone. We don't have the May numbers yet, but those are coming. April saw 148,000 jobs lost. $5.3 billion lost in wages," said American Beverage Licensees Director John Bodovich.

Small businesses in general are suffering as never before.

"This year in April, the country lost 500, almost 550,000 on net which is, it's unheard of," said economist John Dunham, chief economist of Dunham & Associates Economist. "Re-opening is just the beginning and then you've got to deal with months of uncertainty to how we get back to numbers that make sense," said bar owner Krouse.

"They depend on people coming in and out of their establishments. The chances of a restaurant of a bar of almost any kind, making any kind of profit in a state like New York of California; well for this year, it's almost zero," said economist Dunham.

All the bar owners and their employees want is to be treated like so many other already open businesses, including food serving bars, taverns and restaurants. "If they let us open in a responsible way, we would be able to keep the safety of our customers and the safety of our livelihoods moving forward. I think we could do that," said Krouse.

And, it's more than just a business. "Bars are so much a part of the fabric of our communities and our neighborhoods that it's critical that they survive," said Ms. Borden.

An additional federal relief bill is expected in July, but even that will be too late for far too many.