Tech retailer B8ta closes 2 S.F. stores after robbery at gunpoint – San Francisco Chronicle

Shopper electronics retailer B8ta has briefly closed two San Francisco shops, the most recent shuttering coming after an armed theft on Wednesday at its Hayes Valley location amid a surge in violent crime.

Safety digicam footage exhibits a person with a scooter coming into the shop and flashing a silver gun on the retailer supervisor, who backs away. The person, who’s carrying a masks and baseball cap, takes two laptops and leaves the shop on the scooter.

B8ta CEO Vibhu Norby mentioned crime has gotten a lot worse this 12 months in San Francisco. Final month, an unmasked man “clearly on medicine” took an $800 product and ran out, he mentioned. Individually, one other man went into the shop’s again room and broken merchandise and broke an indication, in response to a police report. At its Union Sq. location, two ladies stole a number of luggage final month, in response to a police report. That retailer can be now closed and all the incidents are underneath investigation, in response to the San Francisco Police Division.

Burglaries, labeled as theft with pressured entry or intimidation, have skyrocketed in San Francisco over the previous 12 months, with closed stores and homes changing into in style targets in the course of the pandemic. Citywide, burglaries jumped 50.9% in 2020 to 7,487 instances in comparison with 4,962 instances in 2019, in response to police. Within the division’s northern district, which incorporates Hayes Valley, burglaries have been up 44%.

It’s one other hurdle for retailers who have been pressured to shut for months in the course of the pandemic and now have restrictions on occupancy. Many consumers have switched to on-line ordering, decreasing foot site visitors.

B8ta’s high-end merchandise embody laptops and audio system price 1000’s of {dollars}, and robberies have been an issue for the reason that Hayes Valley retailer opened in 2017. However the latest incidents, culminating with a gunman within the retailer this week, made maintaining the shop open not possible, Norby mentioned. An unarmed safety guard was powerless to cease the theft.

Violent crime isn’t an issue on the firm’s shops exterior of San Francisco, which embody different Bay Space cities like Palo Alto, Corte Madera and San Jose. “This doesn’t exist elsewhere the place we now have shops,” he mentioned.

Video: B8ta

Somebody even broke a window on the firm’s retailer at Chase Heart final month, which is a block from police headquarters, however was thwarted by a second pane of glass.

Norby mentioned it’s disappointing that a few of San Francisco’s premier purchasing areas have turn out to be harmful, and he desires to reopen the shops when it feels protected.

“Hayes is without doubt one of the finest purchasing streets within the metropolis,” he mentioned. The Union Sq. location is subsequent to luxurious retailer Hermès.

He’s calling on metropolis officers to prioritize security within the areas.

“I don’t have an answer for you however I do have a problem, which is hold this block protected for a month,” Norby mentioned.

Town’s Workplace of Financial and Workforce Improvement mentioned it linked B8ta to Union Sq.’s Neighborhood Profit District, which companions with native retailers on public security and different providers, and to Northern Station Police Captain Paul Yep.

“We’re sorry Mr. Norby and his staff have needed to expertise this. Our hope is to proceed to convey COVID-19 instances down, in order that we are able to resume reopening our economic system and begin permitting folks to come back again into the corridors to buy and eat, and to do them safely,” the company mentioned.

“It is a deeply regarding growth, and our workplace has been in direct contact with the proprietor, in addition to the SFPD and District Lawyer, in response. We’re decided to handle this challenge and ensure our neighborhood companies and their staff are protected,” Supervisor Dean Preston, who represents Hayes Valley, mentioned in a press release.

B8ta has raised over $93 million from traders, together with Macy’s and Khosla Ventures, in an effort to reimagine brick-and-mortar retail for tech merchandise, however the pandemic ravaged its enterprise. The corporate laid off over half of its company staff and furloughed round 250 retail staff final March. Many staff have been rehired, and the corporate was aided by a $2.26 million Paycheck Safety Program mortgage, Norby mentioned. The corporate now has round 130 staff.

“We’ve been discovering methods to make ends meet. We’re undoubtedly not out of the woods,” he mentioned, predicting will probably be one other 12 months earlier than issues recuperate.

Final March, the corporate closed its San Francisco workplace and altered its mailing tackle to its warehouse in Austin, Texas, however Norby intends to maintain B8ta’s headquarters in San Francisco, the place he lives, and hopes to ultimately reopen the shuttered shops.

“S.F. is such an excellent metropolis, it’d be a disgrace to not have a retailer right here,” he mentioned. “We’re not leaving.”

Roland Li is a San Francisco Chronicle employees author. E-mail: roland.li@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @rolandlisf

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