SF moves to help Hong Kong Lounge II and others after gas line explosion

Updated 5:13 pm PST, Saturday, February 16, 2019

As the National Transportation Safety Board continues to investigate the Feb. 6 gas line explosion on Geary Boulevard, the city of San Francisco is working to get two beloved businesses back on their feet: Hong Kong Lounge II and Huckleberry Youth Programs.

The road back from a fire is a long one, rife with insurance claims, rebuilding the business, possible relocation and more. Among the immediate services the city is offering the two businesses is giving them access to up to $10,000 through San Francisco’s Small Business Disaster Relief Fund, to serve as a stop-gap until insurance money is paid out.

The hope, said Joaquín Torres, director of the city’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, is to support the businesses’ needs, including relocating, supporting affected employees and helping them find work (and everything else in between).

“In the case of Huckleberry and Hong Kong Lounge II, we were there on the ground engaging with both organizations as quickly as possible, so we can assess what their needs are going to be and let them know that the mayor’s disaster recovery fund was going to be available to them,” Torres told SFGATE.

Among the more crucial steps following the fire is finding work for employees of the two impacted groups. Fortunately, Huckleberry employees were shifted to other locations of the nonprofit. The Hong Kong Lounge II, however, employed 25 workers who were left without a job.

“We know that about half of the 25 employees in Hong Kong lounge are responding and have been able to find some employment pretty quickly, but we are working with [the rest of] them to set up a time collectively to make sure that they are aware of our resources that are available to them,” said Torres.

“We’re working with them; we want to understand what the business owner wants to do,” Torres later added. “The immediate priority is around the needs of the employees and our focus will be on making sure that the remainder of the 25 have a centralized space that they can go to, to find new jobs.”

The building at 3300 Geary Blvd., which housed the popular dim sum restaurant and two apartments above, bore the brunt of the flames during the 140-minute ordeal. The building has since been red-tagged by the Department of Building Inspection.

Huckleberry Youth Programs, situated next door to Hong Kong Lounge II, also sustained damage to its building. The nonprofit is currently working with the city and Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer’s office to find a new location.

Money from the city’s disaster relief fund generally lands within 30 to 45 days after an event like the gas explosion, according to Torres, as the city — as well as Hong Kong Lounge II’s many, many customers — is hoping that influx of cash will pave the way for a swift return for the restaurant.

“When you talk about being able to replace inventory, being able to store inventory that was saved … future equipment purchases, security deposits for a new lease, employee salaries; we just tide them over for a time, but all of that goes a long way in keeping the economy humming, especially for them,” said Torres.

SFGATE reached out to Hong Kong Lounge II owner Annie Ho for comment, but was unable to contact her for this article.

Read Dianne de Guzman’s latest stories and send her news tips at ddeguzman@sfchronicle.com.

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This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Hong-Kong-Lounge-II-Huckleberry-disaster-relief-13611308.php.

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