They’ve survived earthquakes and Prohibition, but can Bay Area bars survive coronavirus?

OAKLAND — Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon has only closed twice since 1884, once when the 1906 earthquake leveled much of the Bay Area, and in 1929 when then-owner Johnny Heinold had surgery.

The bar survived the 1918 flu pandemic and Prohibition — they sold soft drinks during that dark time — and has been serving Oaklanders through a couple of world wars, the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party and two tech booms. But the bar where Jack London used to do his high school homework might’ve finally met its match: the coronavirus pandemic and a lockdown order that has brought the bar’s revenues down to zero.

Heinold’s is in better shape than other bars thanks to a robust reserve fund the owners have been using to pay their five bartenders and other assorted bills during the lockdown. But how long will those savings last?

“I am refusing to answer that question in my own head, on grounds that it would cause me to go insane,” co-owner Elliott Myles said. “I need to take it a day at a time.”

As the region enters its 11th week under lockdown, bar owners are faced with a daunting decision: do they keep going, feeding off savings and whatever they can make on to-go orders, or do they call it quits and close up the treasured dive bars, watering holes and music clubs that help fuel the Bay Area’s celebrated nightlife.

“It’s going to lead to business and personal bankruptcies, we’re going to lose beloved cultural institutions,” said Ben Bleiman, founder of the San Francisco Bar Owners Alliance. “I wouldn’t be surprised if 40, 50 percent of the bars in San Francisco never reopened.”

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It’s already started. Such well-known spots as Oakland’s Stork Club, the famed Saddle Rack country bar in Fremont and The Stud, San Francisco’s oldest gay bar, have all announced they will not reopen, although the Stork Club holds out hope of eventually finding a new home.

Bleiman, who owns three bars in the city including Dr. Teeth and Soda Popinski, said maybe one in 100 bars are doing okay business right now.

In an effort to provide some relief, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control started allowed bars to sell closed bottles of beer or liquor to go, though Myles noted his customers can get the same stuff cheaper at stores like BevMo. Bars with kitchens can sell mixed drinks to go

Source:: East Bay – Lifestyle


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