How to support your favorite Bay Area bars during shelter-in-place

Photo: Courtesy of Victory Hall & Parlor
By Alisa Scerrato - Published on March 20, 2020.

On Sunday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that all bars in the state of California must close. That was quickly followed by the Bay Area's shelter-in-place order, which was extended to the entire state as of last night. 

While restaurants are still allowed to offer delivery and takeout (including pre-mixed cocktails with a secure lid, provided they're sold with food), bars with no food component are in a much tougher place. They can only sell sealed bottles of beer, wine, and spirits, and only if they possess specific types of liquor licenses with the state.

That puts them in direct competition not just with restaurants, but with grocery stores and liquor stores, which are also now allowed to offer drive-through windows.

Some are forging on anyway. Oakland's Heart & Dagger Saloon is planning to open a bottle shop this weekend, allowing customers to pick up beer, wine and spirits to go from 3 – 5 p.m. (Other bars that serve food, like The Monk's Kettle and City Beer Store, had already shifted into bottle-shop mode, as have many craft breweries' taprooms.)

But most bars have been closed since early this week, facing the prospect of weeks, and possibly months, without revenue. Many service staff have already been laid off, and rent is coming due shortly.

“We are all starting from scratch here, these are unprecedented times,” said Eric Grenier, a board member of the SF Bay Area chapter of the United States Bartenders' Guild (USBG). “Everyone is trying to wrap their head around the new normal and figure out the best way to help.”

“This is about to become a financial nightmare in the Bay Area for service industry workers,” agreed Paul Bavaro, owner of Mission-based bars Thieves Tavern (496 14th St.) and the Blind Cat (3052 24th St.) He paid employees all the funds he had, he said, but has already had to lay them off. 

“I have zero income, as do they," he said. "They are getting a pittance in unemployment, and I am getting zero."

Photo: Courtesy of Thieves Tavern

Bavaro is fortunate: his landlord at Thieves Tavern has given him two months rent-free to stay afloat. “They were super generous and initiated without an ask,” he said.

But paying vendors and other expenses during the lockdown will be impossible without income. “The true disaster financially will be in the recovery."

Grenier, who works as a brand ambassador for Jack Daniels whiskey, said many of his USBG colleagues are already unemployed as well. 

"Living paycheck to paycheck is a mental weight in of itself, but now you take away the ability to make money, and the immediate future seems pretty bleak," he said. 

Nonetheless, he and other volunteers have come together to help the industry. Nationwide, the USBG is offering emergency relief grants to individual bartenders and servers (there's no need to be a member to apply). It's also connecting them to health and mental health resources, which Grenier said is something that needs to be addressed.

“In this industry, we have an innate need to help people, whether good times or bad, so this is a good place to start,” he said.

Here are some supplemental resources shared with us by the Bay Area USBG chapter and local bar owners:

Petitions to help bars and bartenders in California

Immediate economic aid package for the hospitality industry

Suspend rent, mortgage, & utility payments during the coronavirus crisis

Mass fundraisers for bartender relief

USBG's bartender emergency assistance program

One Fair Wage: support workers in crisis

Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation: COVID-19 Crisis Relief Fund

Project Ellis: housing relief and legal aid grants

CoreGives: support children of restaurant employees

Aid and information for bar workers

Free meals for families during SF school closures

SF suspending power and water shutoffs, waiving penalties and interest

SF prohibits eviction of tenants who can't make rent

Business and worker resources in Oakland

Daily "quarantine schedule" for mental health

COVID-19 resources for undocumented Californians 

Treasury and IRS to delay tax payment deadline by 90 days

Fundraisers for specific San Francisco bar employees

Lucky 13

The Detour

Victory Hall and Parlor

Pacific Cocktail Haven

Bender's Bar & Grill

Zombie Village 

Bourbon & Branch 



Rickshaw Stop 

The Knockout 



Doc’s Clock 


True Laurel 



The Lookout



Sea Star 

The Midway 


Evil Eye

The Treasury & Beehive 


The Devil’s Acre

The Lark 


Pop’s Bar 

Holy Water 

Last Rites 




Pagan Idol 

Local Edition 

Brass Tacks & Anina 

El Rio 


The Edge


Fundraisers for specific Oakland bar employees

Heart & Dagger/Amplifier 

Temescal Brewing

Starline Social Club 


Geo Kay’s 


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