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Politics & Policy

These San Francisco small businesses say APEC crushed them. An official wants answers

San Francisco Supervisor Matt Dorsey listens during a Board of Supervisors meeting at City Hall.
San Francisco Supervisor Matt Dorsey listens during a Board of Supervisors meeting at City Hall. | Source: Michaela Vatcheva for The Standard

San Francisco Supervisor Matt Dorsey told The Standard he plans to call for a hearing this week to review how small businesses were negatively impacted by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit after reports of major drops in customers.

Tens of thousands of people came to San Francisco for the weeklong geopolitical summit in mid-November, making the gathering the largest international event the city has hosted since the United Nations convened in 1945. However, the security fences set up to protect APEC leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, created a heavily guarded security perimeter around Moscone Center, where most meetings took place.

Dorsey, whose district includes the South of Market area affected by the security zone, said he heard complaints from a “multitude” of residents and businesses. On Tuesday, he plans to submit a request for a hearing by the city’s Budget and Finance Committee.

“I think the city and its partners at the state and federal level did a good job in staging a historic event,” Dorsey said. “I think this showcased San Francisco to the world in a good way and this was generally successful. But like in anything else, there are winners and losers, and I heard from small business and residents who suffered undue hardships. I want to do everything I can to advocate for them.”

David Cohen, CEO of the company that oversees the Grove on Mission Street, said the restaurant saw revenue dip 40% during the APEC conference, with about 1,300 fewer customers than a normal week.

“We stayed open to be a part of this event to showcase the city, and we saw a huge sales drop,” Cohen said. “It destroyed our financials.”

Dorsey, who frequently holds meetings at the Grove on weekends, said he also heard from a pet grooming business that didn’t do well because of the security perimeter. The supervisor acknowledged that such a business was likely to be harder hit than others during APEC, but he hopes a hearing will allow other residents and business owners to provide a fuller picture of the impacts.

“I don’t think anybody is flying in from around the world to groom their dogs, and people not being able to come in and out of the area is critical to that business,” Dorsey said. “I think a hearing is a good opportunity to identify businesses that suffered hardships.”

Overall, San Francisco received mostly positive reviews for its handling of APEC. Many city officials viewed the summit as a pivotal moment to reset the narrative on a city that has been the subject of frequent criticism in the media. How the city handles the aftermath of APEC may be even more important for local businesses and residents.

Garrett Leahy contributed to this story.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to note that The Grove’s traffic was down about 1,300 customers, according to the owners.

Josh Koehn can be reached at josh@sfstandard.com