Small businesses in 'security zones' don't feel prepared for APEC conference

San Francisco is set to welcome an expected 20,000 people attending the November conference for the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation, APEC. Dignitaries and Heads of State will need extreme levels of security and created security zones to be closed to vehicle and bike traffic. 

The APEC conference is going to disrupt commuters all over the city, but the highest security clearance will close streets in SoMa and Nob Hill. Small business owners within the perimeter of the security zones are concerned they will not get the business they need. 

Even though the city is encouraging businesses to stay open, some small business owners within the security zones said they do not feel prepared. Many of them said there has not been enough information to help them staff for the event. 

Restaurant owners said there will be food provided to attendees at the conference, so they are not even sure if attendees will dine with them, especially the establishments farther away from the activity. 

Gloria Chan from the City’s Economic and Workforce Development Department said, "APEC is an extraordinary opportunity for San Francisco to showcase itself on the world stage. As part of the city’s ongoing recovery, our goal is to continue to attract and bring a diverse range of businesses to San Francisco that in turn create jobs for our residents. Our goal is also to tell the world about our unique story and all the City has to offer residents, workers, employers and visitors."

"This event is slated to be bigger than Dreamforce in its impact," said bar owner John Eric Sanchez, who opened Executive Order on Mission Street in 2018.

The bulk of the transit and traffic impacts city-wide will take place between Nov. 14 and Nov. 19, with streets and freeway ramps in SoMa closed during this time.

People will be allowed to walk into these zones to access their homes or workplaces, but they’ll have to go through a screening at a security checkpoint.

"It’s going to pose a big challenge," said Sanchez. "We don’t really know what it’s going to look like, if it’s going to be like waiting at SFO or OAK for a flight."

The owner of Dr.’s Orders Massage and Fitness said he didn’t realize he was in one of the security zones. He said he will have to individually call all of his clients and either alert them to prepare to wait in security line and walk, or have them reschedule their appointments.

"Since I do deal with Classpass, I’ll make sure to notify them and I will mark myself out for that timeframe," he said. 

Restaurants in the security zone with fresh food deliveries will struggle to get supplies.

"Deliveries of any product coming in will only be allowed between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., which is not necessarily delivery hours for a lot of places," he said.

Owner of The Harlequin, Phil Chen, said they will schedule their deliveries for the week before, and as a result, will have to take meals with fresher ingredients, such as oysters, off the menu.

"I think there would be a significant amount of business owners if given the option would sit this one out," said Sanchez.

Nam Hoang, co-owner of Freshroll Vietnamese Rolls and Bowls located at the Metreon, said they will shut down the restaurant for five days. He told KTVU his restaurant relies on fresh products daily to operate.

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Hoang said his business also utilizes delivery services like Doordash and Uber, which won’t be allowed to operate in the security zone. 

"Are those people going to want to park their scooters or vehicles outside, wait at a checkpoint to be screened in metal detectors and then walk one to two blocks to pick up their food and then walk back to their cars?" asked Sanchez.

Also in the perimeter is Tropisueno, a Mexican restaurant on Yerba Buena Lane. Proprietor Michael Sopher says he does not know whether his staff will be able to get to work. 

He questioned whether they would need a government-issued ID to pass the screening at the border of the perimeter. "They don’t all have this," he said.

Gloria Chan from the City’s Economic and Workforce Development Department clarified that IDs will not be checked. People will have their bags screened. 

"Vendor deliveries are going to be impossible. We are going to order product to get us through the week. We usually don’t do this," Sopher explained.

City leaders are advising business owners and residents to build in extra time to get around. They are also encouraging attendees to support small businesses while they’re here.

Chan said, "Ambassadors will also be on ground to guide and support people through wayfinding in the downtown area. San Francisco also put a call-out for additional citizen volunteers, and the response was high, more than double the anticipated level of sign-ups." 

Chan said the City sent out people door to door on Wednesday to help spread information about security and answer any questions for small business owners.

The Board of Supervisors is voting Tuesday on a resolution aimed at providing funding to small businesses impacted by the conference, which was authored by Supervisor Connie Chan.

The security measures are expected to interrupt service for nearly two dozen Muni lines. There will also be some changes to BART lines. A map and more information about reroutes are available on SFMTA’s website

People can call 311 or to learn more information and get up-to-date details about what is being asked of businesses.