By Andria Borba

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Some businesses in San Francisco’s Castro District might not be able to hold on long enough through the coronavirus pandemic to get back to full operation.

On Castro Street, the Pride flags are still flying, but instead of being flanked by throngs of people, the flags are decorating boarded-up storefronts. The neighborhood hasn’t been this quiet since the height of the AIDS epidemic. There’s concern about the soul of the neighborhood – the small businesses – getting stripped away.

“I’m concerned with the Castro Theatre, how they’re able to continue operating,” said Daniel Bergerac, the co-owner of Mud Puppy’s pet grooming service. Bergerac has had to lay off all his employees. He says he’s got a cash reserve to pay for their healthcare, but that’s quickly dwindling.

“I’m really concerned about my employees,” said Bergerac. “We had to lay off everyone. 30-plus employees. They’ve all had problems with EDD to get their payments coming.”

Just down the block at Harvey’s, the restaurant is still open for takeout, but the numbers are only 10 to 12 percent of normal. “We can probably handle this for another two months before it becomes … it’s already unsustainable,” said General Manager Steve Porter. “I mean we’re losing money everyday that we’re open. We’re not even close to breaking even.”

Porter is concerned about the shutdown taking out even more businesses. “There’s not a whole lot of reason for optimism at this point because we had the highest commercial vacancy rate in the city of nearly 14 percent before this happened,” he said. “I can only imagine how much higher it’s gonna go.”

On Market Street at Canela Bistro & Wine Bay, owner/chef Mat Schuster is churning out takeout alongside home kits for paella and Mother’s Day brunch. He’s operating with a sense of hope.

“We’re counting on the fact it’s probably going to take a year, year-and-a-half, to come back fully or maybe when it does come back – what’s the economy like – are people going to be eating out as much at that time,” said Schuster. “So, that’s why we’re trying to explore other avenues like our e-store.”

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