Economic losses for Coastside businesses as a result of PG&E’s public safety power shut-offs likely run in the millions of dollars just as many are facing the beginning of the slow season, according to responses to a Half Moon Bay Coastside Chamber of Commerce survey.
For many local businesses that already operate on thin margins, the outages were an extra strain, particularly since some businesses had to close shop on a weekend over one of the busiest times of the year.
“There is no way for them to recoup the costs,” said Chamber of Commerce CEO Krystlyn Giedt. “... There’s no angle of this that’s not horrific and saddening.”
There were 40 responses to the survey, Giedt said. The combined reported loss nears $500,000 and Giedt estimates the total is in the millions of dollars. This survey has only captured a small segment of the roughly 1,000 businesses on the Coastside, but Giedt is planning future outreach to gather more responses.
PG&E does not reimburse businesses for food spoilage or revenue losses, and many insurance policies don’t cover these losses either.
Aaron Little, who owns the Cove Café and Assemble to Order Catering, is battling with his insurance company to get some compensation for the $15,000 to $20,000 he says the shut-off has cost him.
“I’m not McDonald’s. I’m not Burger King. I’m not Olive Garden. I’m not Applebees,” Little said. “I am the Cove Cafe. That’s all I am. I’m a mom-and-pop-run catering company.”
Farmer’s Insurance representatives reportedly told Little his policy doesn’t cover planned outages. Little counters that the constantly changing times and dates prevented him from being able to plan.
“It’s not just a PG&E thing,” he said on the phone while he was at the store buying food to restock. “It’s an everybody thing. It’s insurance companies. It’s the county. It’s everybody.”
Little doesn’t know if he could afford another PG&E shut-off this year.
At Main Street Grill, owner Jim Ganim took as much food as he could to his home to store it in the refrigerator during the outages.
“The other food we had to throw away,” said Ganim, who estimated $4,000 in revenue loss and $1,000 in food loss. “PG&E’s not paying for it. Our insurance company isn’t paying for it. That kind of hurt.”
While PG&E has said it would offer $250 rebates to businesses affected by the Oct. 9 shut-off, Giedt said the amount is “preposterously low.”
“What business only lost $250?” she asked. “None of them.”
Even when PG&E chooses to delay or cancel outages, Giedt said businesses still lose revenue. Owners reschedule meetings, send employees home, don’t order food and take other measures to prepare for the planned shut-offs only to find out they could have remained open all along.
“They had revenue loss during days when the power was on, and they shouldn’t have had to,” Giedt said.
She described one business owner who had to rearrange and cancel appointments only to find out the power would remain on.
“(It’s) devastating to him,” she said. “That’s many thousands of dollars he lost for no reason.”
The weekends are the busiest days for many businesses along the coast, including Sam’s Coffee Shop.
“There was a big food inventory and everything went to the trash,” owner Federico Godinez said of the most recent shut-off.
While Godinez, who has only owned the coffee shop for a few months, is thankful the doors are still open, he estimates his losses are between $13,000 and $17,000.
“I would say PG&E hates small business,” Godinez said. “They’re killing us.”