Bootleg Bar & Kitchen is open for business at 2360 Van Ness, at least until the end of the month. The problem is that you might not know it from the street, according to co-owner Masaye Waugh. A years-delayed, ongoing street improvement project on Van Ness has disrupted business at Bootleg and other area businesses, Waugh says.
“I was talking to my neighbor, and he said [Bootleg] looked closed.”
Foot traffic, parking, and sales at Bootleg — which opened before construction began under the name Ho’s Bootleg Tavern — have dropped precipitously over the last year during the project.
“The staging areas outside the storefronts, it’s this look of a junkyard and gates and no parking,” says Waugh.
Now, unable to pay rent and with no relief offered from her landlord, she’s gotten the boot: Bootleg is evicted, and will be gone by November 1st after some final events to thank customers and help make ends meet.
The SFMTA’s $316 million Van Ness Improvement Project replaces sewers along the corridor and installs a Bus Rapid Transit system for the 47 and 49 bus lines. It was originally slated for completion in 2019 — but unexpected delays reportedly caused by abandoned underground utilities have pushed that date to early 2021.
“The SFMTA is committed to helping reduce the impacts of construction,” says Paul Rose, a spokesperson for the agency. Efforts have included posting “Open for Business” way-finding signs at intersections, in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) and in collaboration with the Van Ness Business Advisory Committee.
The problem for Waugh: “[SFMTA] donated the bus card space, but not the production. The city donated a graphic artist, but we didn’t have the $1,200 to get it produced.”
Other businesses on the corridor have struggled as well. Tommy’s Joynt, the city’s famous hofbrau at Geary and Van Ness, has experienced backed-up deliveries, and frequently receives phone calls from frustrated customers who can’t find parking. Managers typically direct cars to the garage at AMC Van Ness, the nearby movie theater, with whom they’ve struck a deal for parking.
“In front of us they’ve had this barricade up since they started — even though they’re working on different streets, they still keep their stuff in front of us,” says Miguel Alvarado, a manager at Tommy’s Joynt.
“We’ve done good [considering] the issues we’ve had to deal with, but hopefully there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Others aren’t sure they’ll make it. Helmand Palace, which has served some of the city’s best Afghan food at 2424 Van Ness for the past 14 years, is in danger according to owner Haythan Hassan. “It’s killing the business to be honest with you. It’s very hard for customers to see the restaurant, people think we’re closing. There’s no parking.”
“All my savings, my money, I lost because of this construction.”
Hassan says his fingers are crossed that Helmand Palace survives.
For her part, Waugh thanks her customers — there were loyal ones despite the situation — and hopes to leave Van Ness on a positive note. This Saturday, Bootleg will be a stop on a Halloween pub crawl, and a farewell party starts at 4 p.m. on Sunday. They’ll open for a final day on Wednesday, the 31st, pouring off what’s left at going-out-of-business prices: $7 for any liquor, $3 for beers.