SAN FRANCISCO — Extreme frustration for businesses in San Francisco continues as the city remains on the state's COVID-19 watch list with no end in sight.
For businesses like salons and pubs, this may be the final push that forces them out of business.
The outdoor space at McCarthy’s Pub on West Portal is what’s saving them right now. But with smoke polluting the air and rainy winters not far behind, Eileen McCarthy has concerns.
“How long is this going to be sustainable?” McCarthy said. “The outdoor space that I have, I’m really lucky to have it, really grateful to have it, but it’s an awful lot of extra work.”
This week alone, she’s had to close early because of the intense smoke.
“It was literally like snow, the ash coming down,” McCarthy said.
Eileen has owned McCarthy’s for seven years and was an employee for 15 years before that. Never in her time there did she think she’d have to take her patrons’ temperature before they ordered a drink and transform the back alley into a dining room. But it’s what she has to do for her business to survive.
“It’s just the unknown. It would be a lot easier for us if we had some idea of when we’re about to go back inside just limited, safe, distances inside…It’s frustrating to think that there’s nothing, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. We’re not moving forward in any way.”
San Francisco hair stylist Debra Kwan shares Eileen’s frustration and says salons are getting minimal guidance from the state.
“We’re extremely concerned,” Kwan said. “There’s already been severe financial ramifications for us just trying to sustain business.”
Right now, Debra says stylists are allowed to conduct business outside, but in a very limited capacity. Only so-called dry haircuts are allowed, which means, “No chemical work, no colors, no shampoos, no blow drys,” Kwan said.
“That’s not a livable wage for us…We highly likely will lose our business because we cannot afford to continue to pay our rents, to continue to sustain, to bring all of our credits into jeopardy. We can’t do it anymore.”
Debra says, not being able to go to work every day is not just about doing beauty services for her clients.
“It’s the interaction, us being able to decompress with each other and talk a little about our lives, and being strong members of the community. That’s what we miss the most.” And if there was ever a time to vent about life while getting your hair cut or over a drink at the local pub, many would argue, that time is now.