By Don Ford

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Pandemic closures have had a deep impact on the businesses in San Francisco’s Japantown, an impact that some fear may be permanent.

Merchants in the Japan Center mall say they have been shut down for months, but now with partial openings, the landlord is demanding full back rent even though the mall itself was also shut down.

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“Basic rent is like, $5,000 … Every month!” said William Lee, owner of Kui Shin Bo Sushi restaurant.  [Whether you’re closed or open?] “Yeah!”

Miseki Jewelers has been leasing its space since 1968. Owner Mike Nagasuga didn’t want to go on camera but says his rent includes a Common Are Maintenance Fee on top of his rent bringing his total to $9,000 a month.

Nagasuga said if he is forced to pay $27,000 at once, his business may close.

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A few doors down, Victor Lau owns Katachi Knife and Anime Shop and is facing the same decision.

“There’s a lot of businesses, even like Stonestown out there that are willing to do a discount for the tenants but, uh, so far, nothing from the landlord.”

We reached out Japan Center landlord, 3D Investments, but didn’t get a response as of Monday evening.

Lau says all of Japantown needs business. “We’re struggling but instead of visiting Amazon and the big box retailers, come on to Japantown and help us out and support the small businesses,” he said.

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Merchants say both sides have hired lawyers. The resolution may take time to unravel.