“Mass Extinction Event” Warned as Wave of Business Closures Ravages Emeryville

4 mins read

As retail and restaurants begin their phase of reopening, we’re slowly assessing the economic damage caused or escalated by this pandemic. Many of the businesses forced to close when the original shelter order was placed back on March 16, will sadly, not be reopening. Whenever Emeryville completely emerges from this pandemic, is not likely to resemble the one that entered it.

Small businesses restaurants are expected to be hit the hardest with Shiba Ramen Owner Jake Freed warning of a “Mass Extinction Event” if legislation assisting payment of back rent could not be passed.

“It may say ‘Died in a pandemic’ on our tombstone, but the truth is, being a small business in SF, we were already dead,” SF Chronicle columnist Heather Knight penned in a piece detailing the challenges small businesses in particular are facing.

This event will test the resiliency of Emeryville’s business climate and thus far, our city appears to be particularly vulnerable. A troubling sign for a city that relies on sales tax for 15-20% of its revenue used for city services (the city is already predicting a $15.2 M budget shortfall). A city with the trifecta of high rents, high property crime and the highest wages in the country. Our city’s recent plundering at the hands of organized looters might be the last straw for those businesses treading water.

Bay Street has been particularly ravaged with a growing list of at least four closures. In addition to the businesses listed below, there are several boarded up businesses that are not clear will reopen.

Business Closures

Core Society Fitness – CLOSED

Gyms were among the hardest hit by the pandemic and will be among the last to be allowed to fully reopen. When they finally do reopen, capacity and thus revenue, will be dramatically curtailed. Core Society Fitness founder Emily Yang, whom we profiled in 2018, made the sad announcement that she would be closing her studio on San Pablo Avenue that she opened 4 years ago.

“After many restless nights I have come to the conclusion that I need to close the doors to Core Society. Our expenses are high given our studio rent, licensing, equipment and fees associated with the megaformer. I’ve tried my best to carry these month to month myself but I can’t do it anymore. Core Society has been my baby, my identity and my love so it’s heartbreaking to have to go out this way, but it’s an extremely scary and unprecedented time as a small business owner.”


Yang went on to note that she would be putting her energy into supporting her team of instructors.

Business Closures

Café Duetto – CLOSED

Café Duetto, one of the few independently-owned small businesses at Bay Street, is now vacant.

There was no note on the door nor mention on social media or yelp of the circumstances behind the closure. We have reached out to the proprietor for insights behind her decision.

Business Closures

AllRounder Bicycle Shop – CLOSED

AllRounder Bicycle Shop (FKA “Color Wheel“ who we profiled in 2017), closed their doors early on in the pandemic. Despite the sales of bikes and need for mechanics surging during the shelter order, proprietor Omar Sison questioned the sustainability of his business and opted to close their doors.

“Due to the new world conditions, we will be bringing Allrounder to a close, indefinitely” Sison penned in an Instagram post. “This is a pivotal point in human history, and we need to reset and respond to it with precision, clarity, and creativity. We all need time to pull away from business as usual as we transition to an alternative and sustainable way of life.

AllRounder noted that they will provided referrals for existing customers and settle gift cards and pending orders individually.



Business Closures


Banana Republic Women – CLOSED

The clothing anchor that’s been present on the corner of Bay Street & Ohlone Way since the mall opened had its lettering removed recently and has shuttered. Banana recently leased a space for an “outlet” store at the nearby Powell Street Plaza shopping center.

The Men’s store at the opposite end of the shopping center remains open for curbside pickup orders.

Athleta – CLOSED

Women’s activewear retailer Athleta’s outdoor signage has been chiseled off and the interior is vacant. The clothing chain is owned by Gap Inc.

Gap Inc. also owns the Banana Republic Brand as well as Old Navy. The Gap closed at the end 2019.

ITK Culinary proprietor Doug Eng (Photo: itkculinarypro.com)

ITK Culinary – CLOSED

Local Cater ITK (In the Kitchen) Culinary did their best to weather the storm of the pandemic, but ultimately opted to close their business on June 14.

“Unfortunately, with social distancing preventing all other parts of our business to continue, we have made a difficult decision to close and no longer able to serve you,” proprietors Doug & Meme Eng posted in a newsletter to their customers.



Forever 21 – CLOSED

The Bay Street Emeryville Forever 21 survived a recent round of closures by the bankrupt clothing retailer, but apparently not the second.


The Forever 21 space is now vacant.

AMC Bay Street

AMC Bay Street – “Could Close”

The revenue of movie theaters has essentially dropped to zero during the shelter order and movie theater chain AMC warned that it may not survive according to several local reports.

The company operates several theaters in the Bay Area, including the Bay Street 16 cinema location as well as AMC Metreon and AMC Kabuki in SF.

Business Closures
Photo: thetowersemeryville.com.

Specialty’s Cafe & Bakery – CLOSED (Pre-Pandemic)

*Correction* We have been alerted by a reader that the Emeryville Specialty’s closed prior to the Shelter Order.

SF-born Specialty’s Cafe & Bakery announced that they would shutter all their locations after 33 years of business. “Current market conditions attributed to COVID-19 and shelter-in-place policies have decimated company revenues,” they posted on their website. Their last day of operations was May 19th.

Specialty’s had over 50 locations spanning three states.

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Rob Arias

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who lived in Emeryville from 2003 to 2021. Rob founded The E'ville Eye in 2011 after being robbed at gunpoint and lamenting the lack of local news coverage. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.


  1. I know Duetto was already planning on closing before the pandemic and Athleta had plans to move to 4th street in June.

  2. Core Society Fitness was open? It always had the doors closed, looked boarded up, and I’ve never seen anyone enter or exit it in the several years I’ve lived and worked in Emeryville.

    • Give me a break. All those businesses were doing terribly and should have closed long ago. Make way for better stuff.

      • You’re joking right? Make way for better stuff? What could survive a government mandate to shut your door?

        You clearly failed econ 101.

      • What exactly is that better stuff?

        Organic restaurants serving locally sourced ingredients made fresh from Emeryville’s abundant farming space?

        Repurposed home furnishings locally sourced by Emeryville locals scouring neighborhood dumping sites and encampments?

        Clothing designed by and made by THE PEOPLE who choose their own hours – some only working once a month – yet guaranteed the highest minimum wage and paid vacation.

        You people are living the failed hipster progressive dreams of 2009.

        2020 called, your city sucks.

        Can’t really blame the puppets and strivers of City Hall. We all know they are inexperienced leaders with no preexisting or proven civil leadership skills, but the idiots of this city keep voting them in.

        Fortunately we are cashing out soon and leaving this once promising city.

    • Would you really prefer a few hundred thousand more deaths?

      The pandemic was mismanaged from the outset, but given that they failed to contain it, a shutdown was the only option to prevent exponential spread. It’s brutally ham-handed, but the alternative would have been to ramp up testing and contact tracing back in February. The federal government had other priorities, like playing golf.

      • Jan 15: Pelosi encourages her Twitter followers to watch the delivery of impeachment articles to the Senate after celebrating the long delayed “solemn” vote with commemorative pens.
        Jan 23: House impeachment manager Schiff makes his opening statement.
        Jan 24: All Senators were invited to a briefing by WH officials on coronavirus as requested by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Democrats remark that the coronavirus briefing is an obvious attempt of distraction from impeachment.
        Jan 27: White House coronavirus task force meeting.
        Jan 31: Trump bans the entry of foreigners who were in China within 14 days of reaching America. Biden declares the travel ban is “hysterical xenophobia.” Schumer calls it “just an excuse to further his [Trump’s] ongoing war against immigrants.”
        Feb 3: House impeachment managers begin closing arguments.
        Feb 4: Trump says during the SOTU speech that they are working on containing the coronavirus outbreak. Pelosi rips her copy up.
        Feb 5: A few members of the House of Representatives pull themselves away from watching the impeachment to attend a briefing by HHS Sec. Azar. Ron Klain, Obama Ebola Czar and current Biden campaign advisor testifies that “travel bans are nonsensical.” The Senate acquits Trump.
        Feb 7: First mention of coronavirus by a Democratic candidate.
        Feb 10: Schiff convenes the first House Intelligence Cmte briefing on coronavirus.
        Feb 12: Ron Klain “We don’t know a lot about coronavirus.” “No reason yet to be fearful, no reason yet to really panic or anything like that.”
        Feb 19: No mention of coronavirus at Democratic debate.
        Feb 24: Pelosi without a mask says: “Come to Chinatown. We’re careful, safe.” Three weeks later SF was locked down. Trump requests $2.5 billion be appropriated for coronavirus including $535 million leftover from Ebola. Schumer and other congressional Democrats immediately call the request “too little, too late.” Ten days later Congress presents a $8.3 billion bill for signature which includes funding for the Kennedy Performance Center.
        Feb 25: At Democratic debate a question about coronavirus is asked 83 minutes after the start. Bloomberg inaccurately accuses Trump of firing pandemic specialists and cutting funding for CDC.
        Feb 26: Pelosi accuses Trump of cutting CDC funding. The Associated Press reports that actually budget cuts proposed by Obama in 2011 and 2014 had just been reversed.
        Feb 26: CNN attacks the “lack of diversity” in the Coronavirus Task Force.
        Feb 27: Pelosi issues statement condemning Trump. Schumer agrees.
        Feb 29: SNL opening monologue is about coronavirus. Actors can’t keep their hands off each other.
        Mar 4: CNN host Anderson Cooper “if you’re freaked out about the Coronavirus you should be more concerned about the flu.” Schumer singles out Trump appointees Gorsuch and Kavanaugh with threats.

        Trump played golf 3 times between January 6 and March 6.

        Hundreds of thousands of people will die from increased suicide and domestic violence, plus delayed health screening tests and elective procedures due to the shutdown. Six of one, half a dozen of the other? No. People with comorbidity could have been isolated.

  3. This would be the second mass extinction. The first happened after the “highest in the nation” MWO. What was it? About 45 small businesses closed? Let’s sum up:

    – Rent crisis
    – 60% minimum wage increase
    – Mandatory paid leave
    – “Fair Workweek” scheduling bureaucracy ordinance
    – Complete cave in to the SEIU on MWO relief
    – Shelter-in-Place
    – Mass looting
    – Recession

    If you have a small business in Emeryville, get out while you still can.

    If you’re thinking about starting a small business, think of Emeryville as a No Man’s Land, No Fly Zone, WTF are You Thinking, Worst Place in America To Consider Opening a Business, Entrepreneurial Death Trap.

    Stay away. Unclean. Unclean.

  4. Similar to the rules for starting a business in California….
    The First Rule for starting a business in Emeryville is “Don’t open a business in Emeryville.”

  5. Sadly, retail has been dying for a while precipitated by the internet. This event has just been a sort of assisted suicide.
    It is highly unlikely to return except for businesses that cater an experience to high-end patrons if they actually would even chose to come here now.
    The mail boxes at my complex have been broken into multiple times with the last time two weeks ago. It’s just a bummer that the wonderful walkable place I loved to live in has plummeted so fast.

    • Per NRF website: Retail sales have grown almost 4 percent annually since 2010. Of the top 50 online retailers, nearly all operate stores. Industry-wide, online sales is only 10 percent of all retail sales.

      End the highest minimum wage experiment now. Did the city accept the highest bid for the pedestrian bridge? Does the city pay the highest prices for supplies? Do the city councilors pay the highest price possible for personal purchases of their dwelling, vehicles, bikes, electronics, etc.? Well – maybe – since they are getting kickbacks from the union. But if not – why force residents to drive a few miles to avoid paying the highest price for a hamburger?

      The plummet coincided with the socialist city council. Vote Red or Emeryville is dead!

      • I don’t think this is a red or blue thing. It’s just poor planning. The city is too small to expect to run it like SF. The residents can easily spend money in the next city over in Oakland, Berkeley, or SF never adding taxes to the bottom line. I easily do this by having everything delivered. Yes there’s sales tax but there are many other taxes that businesses pay overall including their own landlord. I hardly physically go to the Emeryville stores because the retail environment here is dismal. I go to Marin or Walnut Creek to shop. No I’m not white but I do enjoy nice cordial helpful staff when I spend money. So sad… Emeryville kills their own businesses. Did you know that the mayor isn’t even voted on by residents. The city council takes turns playing mayor. No wonder there isn’t a consistent vision.

      • The genesis of the city councilors proposal to install parking meters (with highest in the nation hourly rates) was to encourage people to ditch their cars. When the meters didn’t fly the planning commission reduced parking requirements for all new residential developments to discourage car use. When BioMed Realty proposed to build a job producing campus in Emeryville the main complaint by the planning commission revolve around the number of parking spots and provision of bike lockers.This is poor ideology. All the Ubers, Lyfts and delivery trucks blocking bike lanes because there is no parking spaces is poor planning.
        Jackmules think they are smarter than everyone else. A few weeks ago a couple members of the school board quit because they didn’t get their way. It doesn’t matter who is the mayor – diverse opinions are not tolerated in socialist regimes.

  6. The city planning is terrible. The bay keeps claiming housing crisis but I keep seeing vacant signs all over Emeryville. Why is nobody renting because Emeryville is way overpriced that is fueled by exorbent rental fees the city charges that ultimately gets passed on to the renter. They don’t have rent control even though they took the steps to become a charter city but that’s all I’ve seen. They force every development to have commercial spaces on the ground floor that never gets rented. That’s potential housing that gets stuck as vacant commerical space. I love this city but I hate the management.

  7. My fine citizens, can I get another $50 million of your tax dollars? Instead of the homeless population increasing 500% like last year, I’ve calculated it will only go up 400% next year with this money. #VoteBauters

    • The squatter camp grows everyday. Apparently Emeryville/Berkeley tax payers are funding food, trash collection and social services.

  8. Hey everyone remember all the people that rioted in emeryville three weeks ago and the city council did nothing to stop it.
    Just think about if that never happened.

    • When was the last time City Council did anything besides their pet projects?

      Emeryville has some dumb voters. Almost as dumb as the Trumptards.

      They’ve got themselves to blame for this.

  9. Hey lol trump troll,

    He played 5 times during that time. Eleven all toll as of 6/28. You’re citing of “facts” needs a little fact checking. Just give it up and go home.

    • Which 5 days? Don’t include the “maybes.”
      How many times did Obama play hoops during Hurricanes Alex, Irene, Issac and Sandy and North Dakota flooding? How many bike rides around Marthas Vineyard and Hawaii wearing mom pants did he go on during H1N1 (2009), MERS (2012), Ebola (2014), botulism breakout (2014) and Zika (2016)? We don’t know because conservatives have better things to focus on – like going to work. We know he cut the Strategic National Stockpile in 2011. We do know he cut CDC funding 13% between 2001 and 2013. We do know he cut another 7% in 2014. We know he cut funding for the Strategic National Stockpile again in 2015.
      How many days did Barbara Lee spend in Washington instead of hiding at home? NONE
      How many pints of chocolate ice cream did Nancy inhale?
      How many doobies did Kamala Harris inhale?
      How many stock recommendations did Dianne Feinstein give to her hubby?

      • Yup – Trump golfed on Jan 18, Feb 1 and Feb 15. That’s 3 times for the mathematically challenged.

        Trump played hoops < 1% of the times that Obama did during disasters.

        Trump rode a bike wearing mom jeans < 1% of the times that Obama did during pandemics.

        Four more years.

      • I see you’re having a little bit of a vision problem (may want to see a doctor about it).

        Your original statement said “January 6 and March 6” and from the data he golfed 5 times


        Not sure why you chose those dates because by adding two more days to your arbitrary duration and he’s got 7 under his belt.

        Just give it a rest, your fearless leader is on the job doing everything he can to see this country through this time of peril.

    • 02/02/2020 *maybe
      01/19/2020 *maybe


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