Taqueria El Buen Sabor on Valencia Street, shown here on March 20, 2020, and many other small businesses have shuttered and boarded up their windows. (Chris Victorio | Special to the S.F. Examiner).

Help for small businesses desperately needed during the shelter in place

By Veronica Shinzato

My family has owned a restaurant in San Francisco since 1989. My father has been cooking Peruvian food since he immigrated from Peru in 1980 immigrant. We are one of the oldest and longest running Peruvian restaurant in California. My father is the only cook at the restaurant, and he is 65, putting him at high risk for COVID-19. This led to the difficult decision of closing our restaurant – the safety of our family had to come first.

My family business, like so many other small businesses owned by women or minorities, stayed open and survived during the mild recessions of the 90’s dot com bubble and real-estate crash of the 2000’s. However, things are much different this time because of the severity and scale of the disaster.

San Francisco family-owned small businesses are losing hope. Many small, family-owned businesses have lost their income due to closures and any savings they had has gone to pay bills, which keep on coming. If their experience mirrors ours, we don’t qualify for the City’s relief fund or Small Business Administration grants since most family-owned businesses do not have employees since they are family-owned and operated. We applied for the Federal Payroll Protection Plan, but with the confusion between the banks and Federal government, small businesses are left looking at their closed doors and debating if it makes more sense to just close permanently.

Usually, being a family-owned and operated business brings me great pride. I am able to share with the community some great food and it makes my family happy to share our culture while making people happy. But now, being a small family-owned business seems to be a liability, since it has disqualified us from much needed assistance and resources, such as loan and grants.

Something must be done soon to help the family-owned small businesses stay on their feet. More needs to be done so we don’t lose these businesses which helped many women or minorities support their families and helped them achieve the American Dream of prosperity for all. If more members of our city leadership ran businesses, they’d understand the unique needs of small business owners. If my restaurant, along with many other minority or women-run businesses, is closed permanently, it will forever change the character of our neighborhoods in San Francisco. That would be yet another disaster to devastate San Francisco.

Veronica Shinzato is a candidate for District 1 supervisor.

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