San Francisco businesses that can now reopen worry about how to pay back rent

San Francisco is allowing many businesses to reopen, but some say they are still facing a big problem.

They are still on the hook for up to six months of back rent and could be in danger of eviction at the end of the month if the city's commercial eviction moratorium is allowed to expire.

In Japantown at Neat Asian Things, a store selling Japanese furnishings and goods, owner Etsuyoshi Shimada puts on a cheerful face, but he worries he won't be able to make his rent payments.

"I haven't paid rent in four months. I cannot," said Shimada, who says he is only seeing about 30% of the customers he had before the pandemic.

He's been able to survive thanks to San Francisco's commercial eviction moratorium that has allowed small businesses with under $25 million in gross revenues, to defer rent payments without worry of eviction. The moratorium expires at the end of the month.

"I'm so stressed, so stressed out every day. I worry about my future," said Shimada.

Anne Matsuno and her husband, Richard, took over Kissako Tea shop San Francisco's Japantown just six months before the pandemic shutdown.

"This is our bread and butter to raise our family," said Matsuno.

Serving Japanese tea, sweets, onigiri rice balls, and bento lunches for takeout has kept them barely afloat.

"It's been very difficult. It's like our main thing. Can we make rent?" said Matsuno.

If the moratorium cannot be extended and eviction notices are sent out, a lot of these businesses will not be able to survive," said Diane Matsuda, a staff attorney with the Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach.

Matsuda says some people have already received notices of rent due from their landlord.

"We are really hoping the landlords can come to the table so we can have a conversation about how to keep Japantown alive," said Matsuda.

"We're about to fall off a cliff on September 30th," said attorney Allan Low, who says he's helping dozens of the Japantown center mall tenants.

"Give a chance to these legacy businesses and small businesses in communities of color in particular to survive," said Low.

On Thursday, San Francisco Mayor London Breed said she understands the need, but says it is not in her power.

"It depends on the Governor. And we are in close contact with the Governor's office to try and ensure that that is extended," said Mayor Breed, who said that the city does not have legal authority over commercial rents without an executive order from the state.

Business owners say they just hope someone takes action before its too late.

"It's heartbreaking, watching the businesses that had to have closed down just cause they can't survive," said Matsuno.

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana

Jana Katsuyama 

KTVU Fox 2 News Reporter

(510) 326-5529 m