San Francisco's largely vacant hotels have an opportunity both to provide shelter to Bay Area residents displaced from their homes due to wildfire evacuation orders, and to make some revenue after months of nearly zero in the process.

As the SF Business Times reports, the Handlery Hotel in Union Square is one hotel that has reopened for evacuees, offering them rooms at $75 per night — down from the typical $200-per-night minimum. Since welcoming in fire evacuees, the hotel has reportedly booked around 20 guests.

"I know I’m going to lose money, I don’t care," says general manager Jon Handlery, son of original owner Paul Handlery, speaking the Business Times. "What I’m doing pales in comparison with what they’ve gone through."

Reopening for even some guests means rehiring hotel staff, which Handlery has done — and it also means complying with some extremely stringent cleaning protocols put in place by the city, which are reportedly the strictest in the nation for hotels.

Also open again and hosting evacuees is the Hotel Emblem in Union Square, where they're offering 20-percent off of regular room rates. This is actually double what the hotel had been charging for essential workers like nurses who needed places to stay in the city during the pandemic, as the Business Times notes.

According to newly revised city health guidelines, hotels in San Francisco are only allowed to house individuals needing to quarantine apart from families, essential workers, victims of domestic violence, individuals traveling for business deemed essential, and, now, wildfire evacuees.

Handlery tells the Business Times that after fire evacuation orders are lifted, he will likely close the hotel again until health orders for travelers change.

Counties directly impacted by the wildfires — eight out of nine Bay Area counties, all but San Francisco — are trying to provide alternative shelter options to keep people socially distanced. In normal times, evacuation shelters would be set up at fairgrounds and in school gyms.

Photo: M. Angie Salazar