Priscilla Smith serves chai to customers at The Chai Cart located on Market Street. A different cart owned by the business was cleared out to make room for Super Bowl City. (Emma Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Priscilla Smith serves chai to customers at The Chai Cart located on Market Street. A different cart owned by the business was cleared out to make room for Super Bowl City. (Emma Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)

City may pay back businesses sacked by Super Bowl

Those watered down, $8 Miller cans are crushed. The militaristic, rifle-toting police are off-radar. And finally, finally, those obnoxious skyscraper-tall Super Bowl billboards are coming down.

Super Bowl City is gone — and few in San Francisco will be sorry to see it go.

Don’t let the bridge hit you on the way out. Can I get a hoo-rah?

Now it’s time to tally the damage. Tough luck, sources say, as the final score of the Super Bowl City festival is far trickier to figure than the snooze-fest Broncos-Panthers game.

We may not know which businesses won, or lost, for at least eight weeks, City Controller Ben Rosenfield told me.

And how much will it cost The City? That $5 million was just an estimate, and reportedly it may super-size when the calculations are crunched.

Some businesses are already reporting feeling tackled by the Super Bowl.

Business was in the dumps, they say, and small vendors were shuffled out of downtown to make room for the corporate football-land.

Now, supervisors Aaron Peskin and Jane Kim are engineering what they believe will be a solution, preliminarily called the “Super Bowl 50 Impact Fund.” The fund would funnel tax revenue the controller determines was raised from the Super Bowl City, and use it to pay back businesses that suffered because of it.

Peskin said he was besieged by “dozens of emails from merchants as far north as Fisherman’s Wharf and Chinatown” who felt financially sacked.

Kim heard likewise, and she wasn’t happy. The mayor and others argued the Super Bowl was a great advertisement for San Francisco.

“We’re already a city people want to come to,” Kim said, “I really question whether we needed that.”

Kim and Peskin said they would introduce the resolution Tuesday at the Board of Supervisors. It gives first preference to the little guys — artists and vendors near the Ferry Building, for instance, or Famous Wayne and his shoeshine stand.

One of those “little guys” was The Chai Cart, operating on Market Street since 2012, owner Paawan Kothari told the San Francisco Examiner last week. The cart was booted from the site of Super Bowl City despite being permitted to operate on the street for years.

Kothari has plenty to worry about: paying eight employees, as well as paying the cost of renting a kitchen. “One day is OK, we understand that these things happen,” she said. “But three weeks? That’s a long time. I have to pay my rent.”

Other examples of bamboozled businesses abound.

Bamboo Reef Enterprises is a small scuba diving shop at 4th and Brannan streets. Karen Zammitti, a representative from the company, wrote Supervisor Kim saying, “I would like to point out that the Super Bowl has been disastrous for our small business.”

On Guard took a walk through Super Bowl City last week. The fan village was pretty hoppin’. (I guess some folks are really jazzed by Visa logos and corporate shlock. Who knew?) But the surrounding neighborhoods were ghost towns.

Walking through Pier 39 on Thursday, one could almost see tumbleweeds rolling over the barking sea lions. Businesses verified a dip in profits with On Guard.

It’s very possible Super Bowl City tourism led to spikes in some businesses — like the Royal Exchange, which ABC 7 reported did rather well — and deprived others.

This is the opposite of what Mayor Ed Lee promised. Remember the whole “Hey, the tax influx will more than pay for the event!” line? It doesn’t quite work if you’re just shuffling around which businesses made more money.

Rosenfield told On Guard these are the riddles his office will solve in the coming weeks. “It’s a little tricky,” he said.

Sales tax data is sent to the state, and months may pass before that data is available. Instead, it may need to be estimated using certain indicators. There’s also questions about costs “directly related to the event or contributed to by the event,” Rosenfield said.

For instance, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and San Francisco International Airport workers “volunteered” regular work hours to work Super Bowl-specific shifts. Whether this should be calculated in the Super Bowl’s final cost to The City is still an open question.

When Rosenfield’s math is done, hopefully Peskin’s and Kim’s legislation can help those businesses who lost big.

And if Lee doesn’t support it, expect local businesses — usually his biggest fans — to be the latest in a long line of San Franciscans to turn their backs on the mayor.

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each Tuesday. Email him at

Mayor Ed LeeSuper Bowl 50Super Bowl City

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