By Don Ford

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) – While many restaurants are seriously on the verge of failure during the COVID-19 pandemic, in San Francisco, they may be getting a lifeline that will help them stay open and feed the needy. It’s called SF New Deal.

Hawker Fare Restaurant owner, Dolly Bautista remembers what her old business was like.

READ MORE: UPDATE: 1 Dead, 5 Wounded in Saturday Evening Shooting at Oakland's Lake Merritt

“Super busy! Line out the door,” says Bautista. “Bar full! Wait at the door and immediately before shelter in place happened, we went down to like, a thousand a day in sales.”

Bautista laid off most of her staff. Only her husband, the chef and his wife were left. Then, a newly formed group called SF New Deal called.

“It was almost too good to be true,” says Buatista.

SF New Deal supports restaurants, who in turn, make meals for the needy. They wanted Hawker Fare to make 100 meals a day. Dolly wasn’t sure she could pull it off.

READ MORE: UPDATE: PG&E Restores Power To More Than 50,000 East Bay Customers

“We didn’t even think, we just did,” says Bautista.

“Our first initiative pays restaurants to deliver meals to many of San Francisco’s most vulnerable residents,”
says SF New Deal executive director Lenore Estrada.

So far, SF New Deal is helping 43 small restaurants, has paid out more than a $1 million to businesses and served more than 98 thousand meals, all in one month. Estrada knows the pain.  

“I myself am a small business owner, I own a bakery and I had to lay off 20 of our 26 staff members. It was terrible,” says Estrada.

The seed money came from one donor, but now the money comes from private donations and some city grants.

MORE NEWS: Fire at San Francisco Tenderloin Apartments Injures 15; Dozens Saved by Occupants' Heroism

No one knows how much longer SF New Deal can keep going but one thing for sure. Waiters, workers, and restaurant owners are happy to be back at work.