City to open center for small businesses

After opening four restaurants in the Bay Area, Geoffrey Swenson thought he had the process down. But the opening of his first restaurant in San Francisco is now delayed two weeks because he “missed a few agencies” on his way to getting The City’s approval to open.

Nonetheless, Swenson was all smiles when Mayor Gavin Newsom and City Treasurer Jose Cisneros, flanked by several city supervisors and small business representatives, chose the front of his soon-to-be Hayes Valley restaurant, Stacks’, to announce the creation of The City’s Small Business Assistance Center.

“It would have been great if something had beenhere like this for myself, to help me get through it,” said Swenson.

Newsom called The City’s system for opening or expanding a small business a “labyrinth” of complexity that forces entrepreneurs to visit several agencies, situated in different locations and who work autonomously.

The “one-stop” center will be located in the Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector at City Hall, where all owners must initially register to obtain business licenses.

The center will provide case managers who will assist businesses with licensing, permits, how to bid on city contracts and make resource referrals, among other services.

It will also instruct small businesses on how to be in compliance with local laws that affect San Francisco employers, such as the higher minimum wage, required sick pay and sick leave and a mandate to pay for employee health care.

Swenson said such laws made it more expensive for him to operate in San Francisco — which will result in higher menu prices than at the Stack’s in Campbell, Burlingame, Redwood City and Menlo Park — but that he supported the idea of providing health care support and a living wage.

“It’s more expensive, but it’s San Francisco,” said Swenson. “For a restaurateur this is the big jump, it’s a great city.”

beslinger@examiner.com

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