City will help Castro Merchants during Super Bowl business dip

Castro business owners are seeing a reversal in fortunes, as The City will help bolster their business during an expected dip during Super Bowl 50.

In November the Castro Merchants said the Super Bowl Committee and The City fumbled by cutting off historic streetcars for the week of the Super Bowl.

The historic F-Market & Wharves streetcar ferries much business to the Castro, the merchants said, and without streetcars they feared dwindling bottom lines during the Super Bowl festival, known as the Super Bowl City.

Now San Francisco city agencies are executing a Hail Mary pass. Signage and other advertising will direct Super Bowl fans to the Castro district to shop, in a win for the local merchants.

“We put up a good fight to try to keep the F-Line,” said Daniel Bergerac, president of the Castro Merchants, but in the end he was satisfied with the help offered from the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, as well as the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

The Castro Merchants has about 300 members, which is 50 percent of all merchants in the Castro, the group said. The F-line carries more than 20,000 riders a day, according to the Market Street Railway.

Although those thousands of riders during the Super Bowl City event may not make their way to the Castro by streetcar, they will be directed to the neighborhood through advertising.

“Overall it will be a benefit,” Bergerac said, “They’ll be helping us to promote the Castro. It feels like we’re all on the right path and doing the right thing.”

The cost of marketing efforts will be burdened by OEWD, but also from the Super Bowl Committee, said Gloria Chan, a spokeswoman for OEWD. Signs at Super Bowl City will direct tourists to the Castro.

“There’s not a great way to capture the time and coordination we do on the back end,” she said, by way of explaining why OEWD can’t estimate costs for promoting local businesses. “The organization, the time, the services, the emails, the logistics, the thinking through, these are things that aren’t captured.”

The SFMTA will run signage on Muni vehicles and in stations directing people to the Castro as well, according to Paul Rose, a spokesman for the agency.

“The information will help promote the Castro shuttle and subway service throughout the area,” Rose said.

The Super Bowl City festival, downtown, and its construction, will disrupt transit from Jan. 23 to Feb. 12, according to the SFMTA. That’s the week before the festival runs, during the festival, and the week after.

But the festival’s size and location will situate it right on top of streetcar tracks, requiring the F-Market & Wharves historic streetcar to only run from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Ferry Building — when usually it runs all the way to the Castro.

Merchants in the neighborhood depend on the “cute little trolley cars,” as they have called the F-Line, for business. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency planned to replace the Market to Castro section of the F-Line with buses.

That wasn’t enough for the merchants, who said the buses aren’t as big a draw as the historic trolleys, which are moving landmarks in and of themselves.

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez
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Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

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