San Francisco

San Francisco's Union Square, a Boarded-Up Ghost Town

NBCUniversal, Inc.

San Francisco’s normally booming Union Square has become a stark illustration of the coronavirus impact as closed businesses began boarding up storefronts. 

On Monday, the sound of hammering cut through the empty streets as work crews boarded up windows on closed businesses. Luxury retailers like Fendi, Louis Vuitton and Gucci were temporarily outfitted in plywood boards — inspired by fears of vandalism and looting. While police have not reported any of those sorts of incidents, businesses have wasted little time in preparing for the worst. 

“I find it eery, kind of strange,” said one man as he walked past a boarded up store. “It’s like sort of surreal in a way.” 

A few MUNI busses intermingled with a scant amount of cars on mostly empty streets — giving the area the vibe of a post-apocalyptical ghost town. A smattering of people wearing masks paced down Stockton Street, which was bustling with shoppers in only recent weeks. 

“The boarding up has started,” said John Stewart Riddle, manager of the Dita eyesore store. “It’s really starting to look weird.” 

While many closed stores were opting to board up their windows, Riddle said the Dita store would take a more optimistic approach. 

“Going to change the windows,” Riddle said, “put some flowers — make it welcoming.” 

Perhaps the most dramatic of all the closures was the sight of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel closed and also boarded up, including the downstairs restaurant Scala’s Bistro.  

The hotel, famous for its beefeater-clad doormen said it was closing temporarily along with other businesses buckling between the weight of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“It’s devastating to see the Sir Francis Drake boarded up and shut down,” said neighbor Richard Ventura who was out for a walk. “That’s a lot of people out of work. It’s a little alarming.” 

While many businesses were boarded, others were not. Macy’s Department store was merely closed and the nearby St. Francis Hotel remained open for business. In an area devoted to fashion, most hoped the area’s current look would be a very short season. 

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