A relief effort launched Tuesday offers restaurants in San Francisco’s Chinatown financial support to open for outdoor dining, as well as assistance on filling out an application to take over area sidewalks, parking lots, and streets.
A stretch of Grant Street in Chinatown was the first to completely close as part of the city’s Shared Spaces program, an effort to provide the district’s (oft-tiny) restaurants with room to spread tables out to a safe, socially-distanced degree.
So far, a few restaurants have moved out into the roadway, but the Chinese Chamber of Commerce (CCC) and the Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC) say that more need to seed the streets with tables and chairs if they want to stay afloat. While many of the area’s restaurants are open for takeout, they’re losing out on outdoor dining revenue, so this new campaign hopes to change that.
Rosa Chen, a community organizer with the Chinatown CDC, tells KTVU that “adding xenophobia to the pandemic, we saw the worst decline in business Chinatown has ever seen.” As you might recall, it was Chinatown that felt the effects of the coronavirus crisis first, with bakeries battling worker infection rumors in early 2020, and a massive drop in business by mid-February.
That early blow to revenue placed Chinatown restaurants in a more precarious position than most. The typically-busy Lunar New Year season in late January and early February was a bust for restaurants, a loss comparable to a retail year without a Christmas. Outdoor dining might help offset those losses, but the CCC’s Donald Luu tells the SF Examiner that though there’s no cost to apply to use the sidewalk or street for dining, the buildout for that seating costs more than many can afford. Still others find the application process inaccessible, Steven Lee, the co-owner of Chinatown mainstay Sam Wo tells the Ex.
That’s why the agencies have launched the Chinatown Outdoor Dining Support Project, which will distribute $25,000 (in $500 increments) to restaurateurs to help pay for streetside walls and barricades. According to KPIX, the CCC and Chinatown CDC will also offer assistance with the Shared Spaces application.
To apply, restaurants can stop by the CCC (730 Sacramento Street) or call them at 415-982-3000. The deadline to submit an application is Friday, August 14, at 5 p.m.