Less than a week into San Francisco’s new indoor vaccine mandate, many businesses are already reporting daily income losses in the thousands of dollars due to fewer customers, high numbers of cancelled reservations, and overall less foot traffic.
Earlier this month, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced that the city would be requiring customers and employees aged 12 and up to provide proof of being fully vaccinated to enter most public indoor places such as restaurants, bars, and gyms. The new mandate made San Francisco the second city in the United States, following New York City, to enact such a strong vaccination mandate.
“We know that for our city to bounce back from the pandemic and thrive, we need to use the best method we have to fight COVID-19 and that’s vaccines,” said Mayor Breed earlier this month. “Many San Francisco businesses are already leading the way by requiring proof of vaccination for their customers because they care about the health of their employees, their customers, and this City. This order builds on their leadership and will help us weather the challenges ahead and keep our businesses open. Vaccines are our way out of the pandemic, and our way back to a life where we can be together safely.”
While the employee part of the mandate doesn’t go into effect until October, the customer part began on the 20th, forcing businesses to only let in people with vaccination proof such as CDC vaccination cards or smartphone-based proof. Businesses were planning on seeing income fall by 20%-30% due to San Francisco’s 78% vaccination rate and the county’s much lower total 12 and up rate through tourism, but the realities have shown to be much worse than anticipated.
“It has been so much worse than we thought,” explained David Motta, an assistant manager of a business nearby Fisherman’s Wharf and block business leader to the Globe on Tuesday. “There were a lot of variables we just were not expecting. Like a lot of people have been canceling reservations not because they weren’t vaccinated, but because they were but had a positive test. Or customers asking if all employees working were vaccinated.
“We were originally thinking, maybe, if it was bad, 30%. But we didn’t expect it to be this. We’ve been losing thousands a day, easy. A few places next to us aren’t as expensive and have seen a little more traffic, but they are also not making as much as they thought. And that’s with more tourists than we thought were coming out here too due to the wildfires making people change their plans from camping to going out here.”
Others fared worse. Due to positive tests, entire groups have had to cancel reservations, costing some restaurants $8,000 some nights.
“When a group who booked your restaurant bails, you suddenly need to hope for last minute reservations or a lot of walk-ins,” noted Lisa Smalley, a San Francisco restaurant manager in a Globe interview. “These COVID vaccine mandates allows that to happen more easily, with the mandate also slowing up the number people coming in in total.
“We were out just about $4,000 on Saturday because of that happening. Company from the valley booked the entire restaurant for a group event but cancelled and we had to scramble getting people back in. And that’s even with cancellation fees.”
Only high traffic and tourist hotspots seemed to have fared well, partly in thanks to nearby wildfires bringing in tourists and keeping many in town, thus boosting the number of walk-ins.
“At Terzo we saw one and a half times the normal no-shows, but then we saw the walk-ins make up for that,” said Golden Gate Restaurant Association head Laurie Thomas on Tuesday.
Non-restaurants also hit hard by mandate
Other non-restaurant businesses were also negatively affected by the new mandate as well.
“The gym is nearly empty,” added San Francisco Gym trainer Huan Lee. “Most are. They look like they did during peak COVID.
“I had about half my training sessions cancelled due to COVID or COVID-related reasons. I appreciate health concern, but many were because of my clients not getting the COVID vaccine. I managed to have one wealthy client be willing to pay extra costs to have sessions outside at a park, but for the most part it’s way down. I thought we were done with all of this, but the city is doing it to us again.
“I don’t think they know what kind of damage they are doing to us.”
Smalley echoed Lee’s words almost word for word.
“Do they even know just how much they are hurting us?”
San Francisco’s indoor mandate is currently in place indefinitely with no end date announced as of Tuesday. Other cities, such as Los Angeles, are expected to announce similar indoor mandates soon.
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