San Francisco’s pause on reopening leaves business owners heartbroken

Once again, the city of San Francisco is putting on the brakes, saying that a sharp increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations and the increased transmission of the virus in the region is prompting city officials to pause many reopenings that had been planned for Monday.

The move led to disappointment and resignation from many businesses.

"We were prepping to open next week, and that was you know, social media posts, talking to customers, booking reservations," said Victor Meyerhoff, the Presidio Bowl owner.

"We feel terrible, there's no other way to put it," said Meyerhoff, "It's heartbreaking. You know, we've all been on this ride for the last 8 months almost."

Meyerhoff said for months they'd moved furniture, created sanitizing stations, and added partitions between bowling lanes,

"This is just an added layer of protection that we put in," he said, demonstrating how the clear curtains can help separate groups. He says the building also has two doors with a lot of air flow, and wonders why his bowling alley should remain closed, when indoor dining at restaurants where people do not wear masks, or movie theaters, which don't have windows, are allowed to open.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed said Friday a sudden increase in COVID patients prompted the change.

"What we will have to do as a result is put a pause on our reopening efforts planned for next week," said Mayor Breed.

That means a pause on expanded capacity for indoor dining, places of worship and museums.

San Francisco has the lowest covid death rate of any major U.S. city, but health officials worry about hospital acute care and ICU capacity if there is a spike in cases from Halloween, elections or the flu season.

The hospitalization rate has reached High alert as the number of COVID patients jumped from 21 previously to 37 people this week.

"It seems everywhere in the country and in the world, if you loosen up a little bit there are more cases and everyone seems to be retracting, so I think the city has done a great job and better safe than sorry," said Adam Bergeron, owner of the Balboa Theatre in San Francisco's Outer Richmond district.

Bergeron says his independent popcorn movie palace has turned into a popcorn parklet.

"We've sort of made mini movie theater outdoors," said Bergeron, saying food, popcorn, drinks and merchandise help keep the business going.

"You can have some popcorn, and watch a little movie and it's great since there aren't many options," said Donny Olmstead, a San Francisco.

Keeping the show, literally, on the road to keep the 16 workers employed will be challenging though, Bergeron said, adding tha tthe PPP loan has run dry.

"Rather than trying to allow us little bits of reopening and little percentages of additional allowances, we really need some sort of stimulus," said Bergeron.

As for Presidio Bowl, they plan to shelve the bowling balls for now and serve up burgers, using their snack bar as a restaurant at 25% capacity, hoping to keep the business rolling.

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