‘We’re at a breaking point’: San Francisco small businesses continue to struggle

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — San Francisco small businesses are struggling to stay afloat, and keeping up with costs to do business in the city.

Today, business owners sent a plea to the board of supervisors, urging them to work with the Small Business Commission, and keep more owners from closing their doors.

It’s everything from piling taxes and fees to homelessness and security.

We’ve watched many mom and pop shops forced to close their doors after being a part of our neighborhoods for decades.

Often times, they say they just can’t keep up with the costs.

Piling fees, expensive taxes, and endless costs drowning small businesses in San Francisco.

“Too much, it’s like you pile straws on the camels back, and the camel eventually gets crushed,” Tonic owner Ben Bleiman said. “Right now we’re seeing strings of closures.”

Bleiman owns “Tonic” in lower Nob Hill and has been in business for 10 years.

On Thursday, he sent a letter to the city’s board of supervisors, urging leaders to work with the small business commission and listen to the community.

“We’re having a real crisis and we’re at a breaking point,” he said. “I sent the letter out today to very kindly urge city leaders to work with each other and with groups like Small Business Commission to make our lives better, not worse because otherwise were all gonna be dead very soon.”

While theft and homelessness play a role in stores losing sales, many businesses say it’s a much bigger issue that stems back to the first day a business opens its doors.

“Just opening or trying to adapt your business, the amount of red tape you go through in our permitting process — it puts the Soviet Union to shame,” he said. “It’s very difficult, it’s among if not the most difficult place in the country to navigate the bureaucracy and that’s a huge huge problem by the time you even open. Often times you’re hundreds and hundreds of thousands dollars in debt because of delays that were caused by the city and their processes.”

And to stay open, it costs a pretty penny, not just for store operations but also for employee insurance costs.

“Extremely expensive,” Canyon Market owner Richard Tarlov said. “That is a law that basically requires us to put aside two dollars an hour for every person with hardly any exemptions even if they’re 25 and living at home under their parents insurance for health care expenditures.”

Now businesses are sending a plea for city leaders to act now, before it’s too late.

Bleiman sent that letter today on behalf of nearly 200 other businesses and local business advocacy groups.

And while business owners pay those expensive fees and taxes, they say the city isn’t taking care of them in return, citing dirty and unsafe streets.

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