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Help Madrone & Pops Survive the Shutdown

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After I published this essay on Medium  on 7-15-2020 and it was picked up by the Bold Italic I was asked by many people how they could help. The most important thing is to be vocal in your support of a Federal Small Business Relief Act when they become a reality. In the mean time if you want to donate to our GO FUND ME, it has now been switched from a STAFF fund to a FUND for the BARS.

I’m a San Francisco Bar Owner with Zero Income Since March. We Need Financial Help — Now! We have saved lives, yet myself and my business still remain Covid collateral damage

On March 15th, 2020, my industry became the first to close because of the Covid 19 pandemic. When the city and state moved to slow the outbreak, I willingly supported the science and the necessity of closure. Preventing adults from congregating and potentially spreading coronavirus was the civically moral and decent thing to do. My own immediate financial loss, I felt, was worth reducing the risks to human life. I still feel that way, even as we have been closed the longest of any city or state in the nation. The sobering infection rates and the most recent spikes have made clear that closing my business was the humane choice.
But the story should not, cannot, end there. As the virus persists, we desperately need a vision for how our financially devastated bar, nightclub, and non-food entertainment sector will recover. We need the financial assistance to make our survival, and that recovery, possible. The utter lack of any federal, state, or local leadership on this issue is what compels me to write this today, in the hopes that we might save not only the lives, but the culture, of our city.
Every bar, every restaurant, every bar owner, every restaurateur, and every employee of my industry has their own unique story. Here is mine: I moved to San Francisco at 22 years old in 1992 with $600 to my name. I came here because I felt a pull towards this amazing city, I felt that I belonged here. The creative energy I sought as a young adult and young artist was magnetic. I have always said that San Francisco welcomed me with open arms. In the 28 years that I have lived here, I have continually given all of myself to this city – as a bartender and as an artist. I have completed numerous public art projects. I have curated and hosted thousands of art shows – from fine art, live paintings, poetry, comedy, and live music. I was involved in the creation of Root Division; a 17-year-old arts group that created studio space for artists in exchange for volunteer hours working in low income schools.
For the past 12 years I have lived above my place of business on Divisadero Street – Madrone Art Bar, with my two daughters age 16 and 11. The homes that I have built at Madrone Art Bar and my other venues, Pops Bar and Bar Fluxus, are inhabited by people that enrich my life, my business, and the surrounding community. I have proudly asked to my table painters, sculptors, photographers, comedians, bike mechanics, chefs, punk rockers, DJ’s, musicians, nurses, skateboarders, golfers, and body builders to name a few. The financial stability of my bars supports a far greater creative ecosystem that is being threatened to extinction.
As I take in the news, I see countless articles declaring that bars are “the petri dishes of the virus.” “Bars are problematic and hazardous because they allow people to congregate,” one report noted. “Bars are the poster child of a terrible thing to do,” said a newscaster. Even the brilliant and beloved Dr. Fauci says, “Congregating at bars is bad news!”
That may be true, for now, but we must remember that the virus is the enemy, not the business owners who have sacrificed their livelihoods to help combat it. I feel, and many would agree with me, that my businesses are essential to the culture of the city. Yes, we serve drinks, but what we serve is more than that: It is community, inclusion, and acceptance. A welcoming space for people to mingle, connect, and talk with someone different from themselves – something that we need NOW more than ever! 
If government wants those spaces to remain shut, then on behalf of my industry, I earnestly plead of our leaders to help us. Create industry specific relief measures — measures that answer our needs without heaping debt on top of the already staggering loss incurred by this shutdown. Our officials simply cannot put the responsibility on our industry without sharing in the financial hardships that we are currently mandated to endure. If opening up the door to our bars is equivalent to opening up the doors to the virus, governmental financial aid is needed to help us keep our doors shut. Help us avoid bankruptcy. Help us so that we can eventually reopen and renew our role as community gathering spots, art and performance spaces, and dance venues. As small business owners, myself and many others are beleaguered by the struggle to save our, and our employees, livelihoods, and saving lives in our communities.
I am more than willing to do my part, as I am sure the entire horribly fractured hospitality industry is as well. I have taken out the necessary loans to try and keep my business afloat. However, my bills have not stopped. I have not received a pause on rent, health insurance (for myself and employees), workers compensation, power, water, waste, security, equipment and auto leases, and liability insurance. As for insurance coverage, my insurance company refuses to pay any loss of income claim due to contractual language that distinguishes between a closure by civil authority and a virus clause.
I, and thousands like me, simply want to keep my privately-owned business from sinking beyond recovery. I do not feel I should be blamed, admonished or demonized because of this goal. I am not selfish, I care deeply about my community. I work hard all day, from 6 AM to well past midnight. My bars were some of the most successful in San Francisco. I was conservative with my finances, saving for a chance to one day buy my building. I was confident in my ability to do so and added 10 more years to my lease. I had also finally bought out my initial investor after more than a decade and was now a sole independent business owner. That kid with $600 in his pocket was now finally 100% independent.  That was February 2020, it was also my best month ever in 15 years.
Fast forward to July 1, I have had zero income since March 15th and I have done the morally conscientious and decent thing that you – my government – have asked of me regarding my business. We have saved lives, yet myself and my business still remain Covid collateral damage. While I am taking on debt and feverishly trying to bail myself out, I witness rampant fraud of PPP funding.  All the while I am getting zero concrete assistance that is industry specific or based on real numbers and actual loss. Forgiveness tied to payroll does not work, because all of my employees are forbidden from working. Loss of revenue is a key factor, forgiveness based on 2020 revenue decline from 2019, will save us. Please prioritize the hardest hit industries. America’s resources should be distributed to recognize that fact. You are in possession of over a decade of my tax returns, you can see the real numbers in those pages. Our country’s free market is based upon the ability to earn, to sell one’s goods to the consumer. The shelter in place health ordinances completely removed and denied my business the ability to participate in the free market.
I have already witnessed the permanent closure of many bars and restaurants all around our city.  San Francisco is world renowned for our commitment to night life, cocktail contribution, music giants, literary legacy, and other cultural assets. This beautiful city will die without your help.
So, I write you today to ask you to do the morally conscientious, decent, and necessary thing by financially assisting my business, and the many other wonderful and essential community businesses who help maintain the spirit of San Francisco and our great country. I have met the standards that you have placed upon my table.  With humility I ask our country, state and city to meet me at my table. We need immediate and strong relief measures in place NOW!

Michael Krouse, (Madrone Art Bar & Pops)
Co-authored with my bartender: Chris Libby
Tom Tierney (Pop's Bar)


  • john k colleton
    • $200 
    • 3 yrs
  • Katie Davies
    • $50 
    • 3 yrs
  • Anonymous
    • $50 
    • 3 yrs
  • Anonymous
    • $24 
    • 3 yrs
  • Anonymous
    • $25 
    • 3 yrs

Fundraising team: MADRONE ART BAR (6)

Michael Spike Krouse
San Francisco, CA
Kristin Graffagnino
Team member
Tom Tierney
Team member
Fatia Peleseuma
Team member
Benjamin Dreyer
Team member

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