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SF’s Fort Mason Center becomes ghost town during pandemic as businesses forced to close

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – The pandemic drastically changed the landscape of San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center.

The center’s normally full of art galleries, schools and events but now it’s a ghost town as a majority of the businesses were forced to close their doors and move online.

Some of the space at the center will now be vacant as well as larger tenants permanently shutter their doors.

Normally, the Fort Mason Center hosts a lot of conventions and weekly events that bring a lot of foot traffic but now an empty parking lot, no one in sight.

That’s also what this place looks like during the day since the pandemic.

“We’re basically a ghost town because there’s just nothing going on here,” Jared Lindenberg said.

Inside San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center, you could usually find live performances, art galleries, food and drinks, in addition to weekly events and conventions. 

But since the pandemic, the art schools here were forced to close their doors.

“Now, as the schools were just closed so there’s no activity. But before we would start with the activities with the toddlers in the morning then the school would open for private lessons at 1 in the afternoon and go all the way to 11 at night. We probably had anywhere from 700 to 800 students each quarter,” Dennis Criteser said.

Dennis Criteser is the program director of Blue Bear School of Music which has been at the Fort Mason Center since 1978.

Instead of doing in-person classes, they’re now doing lessons online.

“We’re struggling on the financial front. We’re also doing things to cut our expenses where we can. I would say we’re probably running about 2/3 of our usual revenue,” Criteser said.

Meanwhile, Bats Improv, which provided live performances every weekend, is now down to 20% of its typical revenue, according to its managing director.

Some schools won’t come back at all.

City College of San Francisco is closing its decades old art campus here.

The Friends of the San Francisco Public Library permanently also closed its bookstore and the San Francisco Art Institute will sublease its space.

The closures and canceled events have had a trickle down effect on the few neighboring businesses still open.

“Lack of conventions and Renegade and the craft fairs have really impacted the foot traffic here,” Lindenberg said.

Despite all the closures and canceled events, the businesses here remain hopeful.

Schools like Blue Bear are getting creative and will begin holding socially distant lessons outside at the park.

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