After pumping up local businesses to think they'd have 20,000 attendees to serve during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders' summit last month, city leaders are now discussing compensating those who lost significant money instead when no one showed up.
It was widely reported just a day or two into APEC week that restaurants around the Moscone Center, and those in or near the security zone set up for the summit, were not seeing anything like the foot traffic they were expecting. Some restaurants that chose to stay open and stock up for the coming crowds ended up having less business than usual, due to access issues around the area.
Now some of those business owners are looking for the city to pay up, since it was the city that initially touted all the economic benefits that would come from hosting the international summit. And as one business owner tells the Chronicle, the city should have known that most of the attendees would likely have their food needs met inside the convention halls.
"In actuality, if there was anything close to 20,000 attendees for this event, they were all well catered to within the confines of the Moscone Center,” says Manuel Ramirez, owner of the Metreon location of the Korean fried chicken chain Bonchon, speaking to the Chronicle. "That is the key information that was withheld from us."
Ramirez says that, had he decided to close for the week, he would have had about $10,000 in losses. But instead, he stocked up on food, knowing that his suppliers couldn't make it through the security checkpoints, and his losses were close to $50,000.
This is similar to stories we heard from other businesses during and just after APEC week. Abacá chef Francis Ang said that his Fisherman's Wharf restaurant saw a total crash in the number of reservations during APEC, with diners apparently not wanting to come into the city — and/or APEC attendees not being aware of the restaurant or wanting to stick near their hotels.
And one of the owners of cocktail spot Novela, which was in the security zone at 662 Mission Street, told KRON4 that there was "no foot traffic in our area... And also the companies, that are typically the companies and the workers in our area that would typically come here for happy hour, they are also working from home."
Several business owners spoke to SF supervisors Wednesday at a committee meeting, where Supervisor Matt Dorsey had called a special hearing on the issue of SoMa businesses who lost money during the APEC summit.
As Dorsey tells the Chronicle, "This was an extraordinary and unique thing that caused extraordinary and unique hardships," and he is not concerned about setting a precedent when it comes to compensating businesses for any event impacts.
It has been fairly widely acknowledged that while some high-end restaurants and virtually all the city's hotels benefited from having APEC guests, the economic impacts were not so evenly distributed.
By way of example, we know that during her brief stay in town, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin stopped by In-N-Out at Fisherman's Wharf, and she dined out in Berkeley at Chez Panisse. And whoever catered the lavish event for President Biden at the Exploratorium certainly made bank as well.
Mayor London Breed has indicated that she might support such compensation, and her budget director, Anna Duning, said Wednesday that the mayor’s team was "glad to hear the feedback" from businesses, and the mayor's office would work "understand how to move forward," per the Chronicle.
The businesses are hoping that the city has funds leftover from the $10 million it set aside to cover APEC-related costs, which can be put toward making them whole for their losses.
Photo: Gordon Mak