City of MillbraeMore than eight months have passed since the San Mateo County Health Officer issued restrictions on travel and business operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the Millbrae City Council and City staff have done much to support local businesses and help relieve some of the economic hardships placed on them.

During the first month of the San Mateo County Health Officer’s shelter-in-place order it was evident that it would have a severe impact on Millbrae’s local economy. To help offset this, the City, in conjunction with the San Mateo County Economic Development Association, set up the San Mateo County Strong Small Business Grant Program. Through this partnership, the City of Millbrae allocated $100,000 and SAMCEDA allocated an additional $30,000 for a grand total of $130,000 to support Millbrae businesses.

With this funding, the following Millbrae businesses received a $10,000 grant on a first come basis. This grant is not required to be paid back to the City by these businesses.

Businesses that received grant funding include:

  1. Ben Tre, operated by Gao’s Group – $10,000
  2. Wonderful, operated by Prochampion Investment – $10,000
  3. Wen Jun – $10,000
  4. Chicken 4 U – $10,000
  5. Dr Patricia Chang Optometric Group – $10,000
  6. EM Beauty Nail Spa – $10,000
  7. International Cultural Exchange Center USA – $10,000
  8. Pandora Spa – $10,000
  9. Speedee Oil Change & Auto Service, operated by Pro-Motion Auto – $10,000
  10. Suchedina – $10,000
  11. Sweet Indulgence – $10,000
  12. The Day Entertainment – $10,000
  13. Uni Souffle – $10,000

In addition to the grant funding, the City of Millbrae’s Community Development Department promoted and helped local small businesses apply for funding through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

In Millbrae, 409 businesses received PPP loans that saved 2,060 jobs.

While some support has been financial, the Millbrae City Council has passed several ordinances helping ensure businesses can operate under the State and County’s health orders.

Early in the pandemic, the City Council unanimously approved a moratorium on the eviction of small commercial tenants directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The urgency ordinance prohibited an owner of commercial real property within the City from evicting a small business commercial tenant for non-payment of rent. The tenant had to prove their inability to pay rent was due to a decrease in net business income directly resulting from COVID-19 or the federal, state or local government’s response to COVID-19.

Once restaurants were able to serve food on site again, the City Council unanimously approved an urgency ordinance allowing local restaurants to use City property for outdoor dining.

With the urgency ordinance’s approval by the City Council, restaurants and food facilities were then allowed to provide outdoor dining services on: 1) privately owned outdoor properties, such as parking lots owned by the restaurant; and 2) public sidewalks, streets, and city-owned outdoor properties.

Since then, 32 businesses have applied for outdoor dining and encroachment permits that allow them to service food outdoors on their property, on City sidewalks, or on temporary platforms on public property.

Those businesses include:

  1. Fiddlers Green
  2. Wonderful
  3. La Collina
  4. Ben Tre
  5. Ipot Plus
  6. Boiling Szechuan
  7. 9 Noodle House
  8. Thai Stick
  9. Zen Bistro
  10. 16 Mile House
  11. Broadway Bistro
  12. Sushi Kei*
  13. Shanghai Dumpling Shop*
  14. PPQ Dungeness Island
  15. Millbrae Pancake House
  16. Chicken Pho You
  17. J Robata
  18. Noodles and Things
  19. Porridge and Things
  20. Leonardo’s Deli
  21. Caffe Roma
  22. Millbrae Kebab and Gyro
  23. Paris Baguette
  24. Lotus Falafel
  25. Hong Kong Flower Longue
  26. L&L Hawaiian BBQ
  27. Stick and Steam
  28. Panera Bread
  29. In and Out
  30. Café Orchid
  31. El Super Burrito
  32. Starbucks

Further policy changes were considered such as closing streets and allowing outdoor dining on the roadway, but all business interests, not just restaurants, were taken into account and the streets remained open.

This policy has been so effective that other Bay Area cities that received non-restaurant complaints after they closed their streets adopted Millbrae’s outdoor dining model.

Recently, the City Council took further measures to help local restaurants facing COVID-19 related hardships by approving an urgency ordinance that limits the amount third-party food delivery platforms such as UberEats, DoorDash and GrubHub can charge restaurants.

Through the ordinance, Millbrae restaurants will pay no more than 15% of the price of purchase orders to food delivery platforms. Through their service agreements, third-party platforms have charged restaurants 10% to 30% of the purchase price per order.

The Millbrae City Council passed the urgency ordinance because of the current hardships local restaurants are facing due to COVID-19 health orders, and taking into account that a greater percentage of their sales are from these online food delivery services.

The Millbrae City Council and City staff have done much to support local businesses and the economy, and continue to do what they can. We know more is needed and are doing what we can to help all local businesses stay in business and rebound from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.