What You Can Do to Help Small Businesses Right Now

Scott Wiener
5 min readApr 3, 2020

The shelter-in-place order — an incredibly necessary but difficult step intended to slow the spread of coronavirus — has forced many of our local businesses to close because they aren’t considered essential (i.e. they don’t serve food or provide supplies or services necessary for getting through a pandemic). For those that remain open, many have been hit hard due to a lack of patronage.

I know I’m biased, but I think that San Francisco has the best small businesses in the world.

Some, like my personal favorite dim sum restaurant Mama Ji’s, are still open for takeout. Others, like one of my favorite bookstores, Borderlands Books — a fantasy and sci-fi bookstore in the Mission — have closed for now. We need to make sure that as many small businesses as possible can survive this challenging time, and re-open after the shelter-in-place order is over. We not only need these businesses because of the important services they provide to our community, but also because they employ many thousands of people and are the backbone of our economy.

Here’s a list of resources for San Franciscans who want to support local businesses. And if you’re a business owner, I’ll also provide some links to important resources for you as well, including for small business loans.

Part of what makes San Francisco so special are the small businesses that make up the fabric of our city. We need to do everything we can to support them right now.

What can you do to support local businesses?

I spoke to Vas Kiniris of the San Francisco Council of District Merchants Associations (SFCDMA) about what San Franciscans with any resources to help can do right now to support local businesses. He mentioned a few different things:

  1. Support your local restaurants. Order takeout or delivery, which are still available at many places. There’s a good list of open restaurants here on the SFCDMA website and here on the SF Chronicle’s website. We’ll link more neighborhood-specific lists later in this post.

Your local restaurants need your business right now. Many restaurants have switched over to only takeout and delivery service — even ones who did not have takeout or delivery before. Some are even doing takeout cocktails, beer and wine. (I also just want to thank ABC for issuing an emergency rule to allow restaurants to sell takeout alcohol — I advocated for this change and it will help restaurants stay afloat.)

If you’re worried about following social distancing guidelines and being safe while getting takeout or delivery, I highly recommend you check out this very helpful Reddit Ask Me Anything from a food microbiologist, who talks about best practices for takeout/delivery (and grocery shopping) during this pandemic.

I also want to recommend going to restaurants in your area that aren’t chain restaurants (or are small local chains) and rely on locals to support them and stay open.

2) Tip generously!

Restaurant and delivery workers are putting themselves at risk to serve you right now. If you are in a financial place to do so, please tip double, triple or even more — tip as much as you can. For many service workers, tips are the majority of their income. Even if you aren’t personally interacting or you wouldn’t normally tip, every worker needs and deserves tips.

3) Buy gift cards, merchandise, or support businesses’ online stores.

Some businesses can’t stay open right now, and are struggling to pay staff and rent. You can support businesses that have closed by going to their websites to purchase gift certificates, merchandise, or other products. Some also have GoFundMes set up to help get through this time. Stores are getting creative — for example, I’ve seen The Booksmith offer free book delivery to San Francisco residents who purchase books online, and now they’re offering curbside pick-up too.

4) Follow local merchant districts’ Instagram accounts to stay up to date about what’s open how to support your favorite businesses. Also, some of these merchant districts have lists on their websites of which stores are open and how you can support them, which I’ve included below.

You can find them here!

@sfcdma (website)



@innersunset (website)


@balboavillagesf (website)


@japantowncbd (website)

@missionmerchantsassociation (Mission Local’s list of open Mission businesses)


@castromerchants (website)

@northbeachneighbors (website)


@hvnasf (website)


@clementstreetshops (website)



@haightashburylife (website)

Chinatown Eats, the Glen Park Association, the Ingleside Light also have information regarding which businesses are open on their websites.

If you live in South San Francisco, Daly City or Colma, check out this website for more information on open businesses and resources.

What we’re doing to help

Supporting small businesses is of paramount importance for me and my office. That’s why I’m authoring SB 939, which will halt commercial evictions for nonprofits and businesses across California. We need to make sure our local businesses and nonprofits can weather the storm of COVID-19, and can focus on paying their staff. That’s why we think it’s crucial to pass an eviction moratorium for businesses and nonprofits. Stay tuned for more information about this legislation.

We’re also doing our part to get information about resources out to any businesses or nonprofits — we’ll let you know how to find those resources below. And we’ve been participating in town hall conversations with local business groups and merchants’ associations to ensure we’re getting information out there to the widest swath of businesses possible. If you are a merchant association and would like to do a town hall with our office, please contact senator.wiener@senate.ca.gov.

Resources for small businesses

There are many resources available right now for small businesses. Our office has put together a list of the resources available locally, on the state level, and federally. This list includes information about:

  • What’s considered an essential businesses
  • Taxes
  • Employee assistance
  • Financial support resources
  • Where to stay updated

The San Francisco Council of District Merchants Associations’ website has many important and helpful resources (for consumers and business owners alike) and I recommend you take a look.

We will get through this together!



Scott Wiener

CA State Senator. Urbanist. Environmentalist. Advocate for transit, housing, clean energy, criminal justice reform, health, ending poverty. Democrat. 🏳️‍🌈