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San Francisco bars, nightclub owners forced to find new ways to reopen when given green light

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – As the coronavirus cripples San Francisco’s bars and its entertainment community, business owners are forced to find creative ways to re-open once they’re given the green light.

City leaders and nightlife operators met virtually Monday night for a summit to discuss the challenges that lie ahead and possible options.

We could see city space used for more than just outdoor dining.

Concert and event venues will be the last to re-open according to the reopening roadmap laid out by the governor.

For them to even make it to that point, they’ll need other ways to operate.

Some of the ideas thrown around were allowing nightlife venues to host outdoor shows and concerts in city parks, while their indoor spaces remain closed or at smaller capacities.

“I’ve been postponing, canceling, scheduling and rescheduling, re-rescheduling basically just hoping someday we’ll have some idea of when we’ll be allowed to reopen,” Lynn Schwarz said. 

Lynn Schwarz is a part-owner of a San Francisco rock venue called Bottom of the Hill, which normally holds up to 250 people.

While the coronavirus forced them to shut down, Schwarz says it’ll be tough to continue business even when they re-open at a cut capacity. 

“We are an intimate nightclub and unfortunately these days intimate is not good so even 25% or 50% capacity when we’re allowed to open doesn’t necessarily pay the bills so how about allowing us to take over some city spaces such as, I live in Visitacion Valley near McLaren Park, shows at Jerry Garcia Amphitheater where we’re able to control social distancing, put up a perimeter and make some money,” Schwarz said. 

Schwarz and other nightlife operators are now asking the city for flexibility to use spaces like its parks and parking lots to hold outdoor shows, events and gatherings.

“If we don’t have space, we will not survive and we’re going to go bankrupt and there’s going to be lives lost and jobs, tens of thousands of jobs lost that aren’t going to recover and it doesn’t have to happen that way if we find more space,” Ben Bleiman said.

Ben Bleiman owns several bars in San Francisco and is also the president of the city’s entertainment commission. 

He says the new entertainment scene will probably involve less big acts and more focus on local talent.

As many challenges lie ahead for business owners and the city, he says it’s also an opportunity to make some changes.

“I think we’re poised right now for a renaissance right now in this city of art and culture. I think that art and culture isn’t just going to be a part of our economic rebuilding and neighborhoods but I think it might actually be the main driving force and that’s only if we all get together and make it so,” Bleiman said.

As we mentioned, the nightlife scene will look much different.

As for bars, Bleiman envisions most of them operating by mostly reservations and cleaning in between parties.

He says having more space for bars and venues will be key to keeping these businesses alive through the pandemic.

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