All right. It’s time to start seeing some Panthers blue flood into the streets of San Francisco. On Thursday morning, it still felt like the party hadn’t started yet. Even though the city is awash with celebratory Super Bowl 50 symbols, the area around my hotel, 1.5 miles from Super Bowl City, isn’t exactly the picture of enthusiasm for the big event.
I popped into a handful of local businesses in the half-mile radius around the Hilton San Francisco Union Square to check out the vibe, and to see if owners and managers even knew what city the Carolina Panthers — and the influx of visitors to San Fran — were from. Five of them accommodated my questions.
Chester Tse, manager of Cafe Bean, a cute little coffee shop with colorful breakfast platters, was the only person I spoke to who could name the Panthers’ hometown. (Ten points for Chester. Plus five more for offering me coffee.)
He said the city makes him think of Stephen Curry. But he sounded a bit bitter about his own city, San Francisco, playing host to the Super Bowl this year.
“It’s taking everything away from what locals are doing,” he said, suggesting that no one is here in his Lower Nob Hill neighborhood since Super Bowl City is a hike from here for pedestrians and the game itself is taking place more than an hour away in Santa Clara.
Nearby, Sam Seibaa, owner of What a Grind Coffee Shop, gestured around his empty establishment. He said the Super Bowl has been “killing the business, simple as that. Small businesses are making no money.”
Business was so unusually slow for Angel Cafe and Deli on Tuesday that owner Nagham Aboufarhaj shut his doors four hours early. It surprised him — he had been expecting a lot of business to come with Super Bowl week.
Aboufarhaj pointed to the mayor’s displacement of the homeless to accommodate Super Bowl City as one of the primary problems. He said he normally sees a couple of homeless people around his doors, but now sees five or six new faces each day. He said they’ve gotten aggressive and have driven off a few regular customers by sitting at their tables or even throwing coffee at them.
“They are invading my space,” he said.
Daniel Padilla, general manager of Cafe Mason, didn’t have a complaint about the homeless, but pointed fingers at the hotel industry. He commented that the hotel prices have spiked for the event and driven away the regular flow of tourists. Normally, he said, his restaurant is really busy, but, “for the last two weeks, it’s been dead.”
He has hope. “I think after this it will be back to normal,” he said.
Meanwhile, Cheryl Christians, assistant manager of Gallery of Jewels around the corner from Cafe Mason, said the week had actually been normal at her shop. With Super Bowl City getting an influx of activity, she said, “It really hasn’t affected us.”
But that was weird to hear, too. Shouldn’t a huge event like this give local businesses a surge of new customers? Time will tell, once the weekend rolls in.
I think they need some Panthers fans to come through their doors.
Photos: Katie Toussaint