In response to a four-alarm fire that tore through a North Beach building on the evening of St. Patrick’s Day, Mayor Mark Farrell has activated an emergency relief program to assist businesses damaged in the blaze. Those establishments, which occupy a busy block along Union Street near Washington Square Park, are Coit Liquors (585 Columbus), Ferry Plaza Seafood (653 Union), Tuk Tuk Thai Café (659 Union), The Salzburg (663 union), Rogue Ales Public House (673 Union), Jack Lee Fong Insurance Agency (577 Columbus), and Michelangelo Caffe (579 Columbus).
The funds will come from the Small Business Disaster Relief Fund, which was created by late Mayor Ed Lee in response to a fire at 22nd and Mission Streets in 2015. Each business will have access to $10,00 in funds “for inventory replacement, equipment purchases, security deposits for a new lease, employee salaries and other expenses to stabilize cash flow.”
“We as a members of the North Beach community are extremely grateful for the Mayor’s support of our impacted small businesses,” Daniel Macchiarini, President of the North Beach Business Association, said according to a press release. “We want our merchants and their employees back on their feet as quickly as possible, and these funds, together with community support, will provide some immediate and welcome relief after this tragic event.”
Saturday’s fire affected as many as 50 workers but displaced just 8 residential tenants in upstairs units of the only partially-occupied building. That’s because the 1914-built Italianate structure had yet to be fully rebuilt after a 2013 fire which temporarily closed Coit Liquors. Owner Shadi Zughaya reopened his store, a longtime favorite among North Beach locals, in 2014.
The cause of Saturday’s fire has yet to be determined, and the future of the twice badly-burned structure at 659 Union Street is uncertain. It’s been red-tagged as unsafe by the Department of Building Inspection, and according to city documents, exterior brick walls must be braced to avoid potential collapse.
Apartment building in North Beach gutted by fire has been red tagged. pic.twitter.com/vQ2qBQh9I2— Lyanne Melendez (@LyanneMelendez) March 19, 2018
At least one business affected by Saturday’s fire, Rogue Ales Public House, may not return to the space it’s occupied since 2003. “We have to say goodbye to the building for now,” representatives from the SF-branch of the Portland-based brewery wrote on Facebook. “In the coming days, we’ll have more info about what’s happening.”
“It appears fairly clear that there is extensive damage to our pub and there are significant issues with the building,” brewery president Brett Joyce wrote in an email, “not the least of which is the fact that the building’s roof is gone.”
Another affected bar, The Salzburg, has started a GoFundMe account to assist with its recovery effort. “Our staff watched the building burn for about 45 minutes before we completely had to leave the block,” organizer Alex Shepherd writes. “This four-alarm fire was devastating to the building. Salzburg, along with the other neighboring businesses are damaged severely due to water.”
“We are asking for any donations to help support our staff/rebuild what has been lost in this very unfortunate experience,” Shepherd continues. “Most of this beautiful Austrian wine bar was built by [owner Jay Esopenko] himself and it’s heartbreaking to see it in pieces. We are asking to please help contribute to repair Jay’s hard work and the time he invested to make Salzburg so great.”