SAN FRANCISCO—Over 100 small business owners gathered at City Hall on Tuesday, August 25 at 10 a.m. demanding immediate relief for the city’s small businesses.

The “San Francisco Small Business Peaceful Protest” was organized by the San Francisco Independent Fitness Studio Coalition.

Speakers at the demonstration pleaded for rent forgiveness, extended commercial eviction moratoriums for their various industries, and for the city to release plans for acceptable safety protocols.

Close to 1,300 small businesses are currently out of operations, according to the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

Dave Karraker, the co-owner of MX3 Fitness and an organizer of the protest, noted in speaking with the San Francisco Business Times, “There’s only two levers left to play. One is to protest, and keep pressure on city officials to try to work with us.”

He declared the second lever is to, on behalf of small business, file a lawsuit against the city of San Francisco. This lawsuit would be modeled after the one filed by 1,500 New York gym owners in early August against Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Diana Nola, owner of Nola Studios spoke at Tuesday’s protest and later posted to Facebook, “I was speaking on behalf of the hairstylists who cannot work yet in San Francisco and for hairstylists in California that have to work outside in the heat and smoke when we have been trained in sanitation…We have spent hundreds of dollars in sanitation supplies but there is no plan in view for us. Are we supposed to pitch a tent in Golden Gate Park? Is that our future? We need assistance and we need a plan.”

Local official are prevented from allowing these business to reopen for San Francisco is still on California’s COVID-19 watchlist.

Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Monday, August 24, he is planning to release re-opening guidelines for counties coming off of the COVID-19 watchlist by the end of this week.

Last week, he announced that he expected to see San Francisco leaving the watchlist soon, butthe county’s COVID-19 hospitalization rates still exceed the acceptable re-opening number.

Napa County became the first Bay Area county to be taken off the watchlist on August 21.

For a county to be taken off the watchlist they must have a rate lower than 100 people per 100,000 test positive for coronavirus and have an overall positive rate of below 8 percent, the number of hospitalizations cannot climb over 10 percent during a three-day period, and 20 percent of ICU beds and 25 percent of ventilators must be available in hospitals.

After the protest, the Independent Fitness Studio Coalition posted to their Facebook page, “So grateful for all the small business owners and customers for turning out to protest in San Francisco (and followed Covid safety protocols!). None of us wanted to be out in the middle of the pandemic, but businesses are dying and we need answers from the City NOW! Keep fighting!”