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San Francisco restaurant closings latest tough headline for embattled city

Crime, drug abuse and low tourism are reportedly driving restaurant owners on the popular Valencia Street out of business in the latest batch of rough headlines for the city.

Reports of a spate of San Francisco restaurants closings is a worrisome sign for the embattled city, a financial expert says.

"Business owners don't get into business to lose money," Ted Jenkin told Fox News Digital. "A business can only survive if it has sales. When your restaurant suffers from decreased tourism, increased crime, and rampant vandalism, it forces any owner to think about relocating their restaurant to where they can earn a living."

The San Francisco Chronicle reported last week that crime, drug abuse and low tourism are driving restaurant owners on the popular Valencia Street out of business.

"If you took me back before I signed the lease, I would have opened somewhere else," restaurant owner Rafik Bouzidi told the Chronicle. "Before COVID there was no way in hell you could find an available space on Valencia Street. Now it seems like another restaurant shuts down every week.

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"The Valencia Merchants Association conducted a survey of business activity, with business owners reporting year-over-year dips as severe as 50%," according to the article. 

"Laurie Thomas, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, San Francisco’s restaurant industry trade group, said members on Valencia have disclosed declines between 30% and 50% compared to summer 2022," according to the outlet. 

Lack of parking has also impacted the restaurants, one local said, citing a bike lane program that removed metered spaces. But there are other fixes that could help revitalize the industry, according to Jenkin.

"The number one issue San Francisco will need to resolve is housing… They will need to shift low-occupancy building to more affordable housing to help revive the downtown area for middle-class individuals and families," Jenkin, the CEO of oXYGen Financial, said.

The Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) told Fox News Digital last week that it was "actively engaged" with local shop owners on the Valencia Street corridor in a statement. 

"In partnership with the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association, OEWD has funded activities to attract foot traffic and program a more vibrant space; this includes funding to support events during the weekends," the statement reads. "In addition, for small businesses impacted by vandalism, we offer grants such as the Storefront Vandalism Relief grant to assist with restoration and improvements. While funding is still available, we encourage small businesses to apply."

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The restaurant closures aren't the only bad headlines for the embattled California city lately. 

Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently admitted it was partly true that recent street clean-up efforts in San Francisco were motivated in party by the arrival of Chinese President Xi Jinping and other dignitaries in the lead-up to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. 

Leaders from the 21-member group are gathering in the city this week to discuss trade and economic growth across the Pacific region, according to the Associated Press.

I know folks say, "'Oh, they’re just cleaning up this place because all these fancy leaders are coming into town.' That’s true… because it’s true. But it’s also true that for months and months and months prior to APEC, we’ve been having different conversations," Newsom told reporters.

Newsom's comments became the object of scorn on the right.

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"Got that, residents of big cities beset by crime, homelessness, and breakdown in public order?" National Review's Jim Geraghty wrote. "If you want your streets cleaned up and your sidewalks free of human feces and hypodermic needles and drug paraphernalia, the tent cities of homeless people removed, graffiti painted over, and all kinds of high-speed beautification efforts, all you need to do is host a major international conference featuring the president and the dictator who runs China!"

Fox News' Jeffrey Clark and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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