Minimum Wage

When A Rising Minimum Wage Forces You to Close, Until It Doesn't

Over the course of the past six months we’ve seen two prominent restaurants declare that the voter-approved increase to the minimum wage, passed overwhelmingly in November, would force them to close. Though the owners were different, the script was the same—and the story of the minimum wage increase that backfired on the working man by forcing the closure of Abbot’s Cellar and Luna Park was widely reported.

As time went by, however, the businesses in question either remained open or posthumously changed their justification for closing—leaving the casual observer to wonder what was really going on, and what interests were served by all that minimum wage bashing. 

Take Abbot’s Cellar—in a January interview with SFist, co-owner Nat Cutler blamed the restaurant’s failure on the minimum wage saying that “while the restaurant was very well received, the long-term sustainability just wasn’t there — and that’s before two recent wage increases: 3% in January (2015), and 14% from 2014 levels in May.” Then, as promised, he closed the restaurant. 

But a funny thing happened next. Abbot’s Cellar co-owner and Cutler’s business partner Christian Albertson popped his head up to discuss the failure of his restaurant, and in the process spun a narrative quite different from Cutler’s. Speaking on The Beer Curmudgeons podcast, a partial transcript of which has been posted to Inside Scoop, Albertson explained why Abbot’s Cellar failed:

It was too big, and ultimately we’re a fine dining place — and were competing with the hundreds of other fine dining places that are kind of like us. And we didn’t differentiate ourselves. We were basically playing in a field where there are a lot of really good restaurants out there, and Abbot’s was doing that, but it has a craft beer program. It wasn’t enough to bring in enough people fast enough.

In other words, the restaurant’s failure was not a result of the increased minimum wage. Rather, it failed because people weren’t eating there. At no point in the interview did Albertson mention minimum wage as contributing to the decision to close Abbot’s Cellar.

And then there’s Luna Park, whose owner AJ Gilbert told Uptown Almanac this past October that the minimum wage was the deciding factor in his decision to close the restaurant by the end of 2014. Gilbert explained that he was preemptively closing Luna Park to avoid projected increases in labor costs, and went on to say that “waiters do not need to be making $15 a hour” pre-tip.

But again, the details surrounding the closure (and sale) of Luna Park were not as straightforward as the owner made them out to be. When Uptown Almanac determined that Gilbert was selling the restaurant to Gavin Newsom’s PlumpJack Group, he stopped responding to our inquiries. Shortly thereafter PlumpJack Group suddenly pulled out of the sale, purchasing The Lexington Club instead. 

Yet despite the increased minimum wage that Gilbert is now forced by law to pay his employees, Luna Park remains open for business. It appears Gilbert’s claims that increasing the minimum wage would result in the closure of his restaurant were likely just a smokescreen to provide political cover for what was sure to be an unpopular sale. With another hike in the minimum wage to hit May 1st, we may soon know for sure either way.

As we rapidly approach the scheduled May 1st increase to $12.25 per hour, it would serve us well to take a closer look at the business owners protesting a rising wage the loudest.

[Photo: Abbot’s Cellar]

Bags & Beers

Timbuk2 Is Opening A Factory Store, And They're Throwing A Party to Celebrate

After twenty-five years in business, San Francisco based messenger bag company Timbuk2 has made the move to open a physical retail space. To celebrate the opening of the factory store, located at 587 Shotwell Street, they’re throwing a party tomorrow night. From the invite:

Join us at the official Launch Party as we celebrate in serious 1989 style in our newest and largest locations.

Festivities include:
* Skeeball (from Joey The Cat) tournament
* Live Polka cover band - Polkalicious
* Outdoor foosball + bean bag toss
* Button making (it’s not mandatory, but we highly recommend 10 pieces of flare)
* Local brews
* Test ride beautiful new ELECTRIC bikes & more from San Francisco’s PUBLIC Bikes
* Adam’s Grub Truck will be parked right outside for serious night time bites
* Boozy factory tours on the hour: 6, 7, 8pm.
* Prizes and raffles from Timbuk2 & PUBLIC Bikes
* Customize a bag in-store: touch & feel the fabrics as you design.

The party starts at 6pm and is free, but a reservation is required. You can RSVP here.

[Photo: Timbuk2]


Mission Street A Hot Spot for Fire Code Violations

Mission Street has a disproportionate number of buildings in violation of fire code, reports The Examiner, with the stretch between 18th and 20th Street coming in as particularly bad. According to the article:

Buildings on Mission Street, The City’s longest and oldest corridor, have amassed more notices of violation from the Fire Department than buildings on any other street in San Francisco. Not unlike the mixed-use building at 22nd and Mission streets that became engulfed in a fatal blaze in January, many structures have been afflicted by numerous violations. […]

Among those violations: fire escapes were blocked by trash, exposed wiring fed a storage shed where tenants lived atop an apartment building, and the beeps from a faulty fire alarm were present for almost a month. […]

The most common fire-code violations, each resulting in a $220 fine for landlords per inspection, are locked doors on fire routes, expired fire-alarm panels, exit signs with burned-out bulbs and absent fire extinguishers, [Fire Department Lt. Mindy Talmadge] said.

With recent prominent fires in the Mission in the forefront of many residents’ minds , the concentration of fire code violations on Mission Street gives extra cause for concern.

Dolores Park Lounging

Chill Dude Cited for Hammocking In Dolores Park

Michael Libertin is a real chill dude. The former Mission District resident loves parks. He loves naps. He loves naps in parks. So, like any right-thinking individual, Libertin headed down to Dolores Park this past Saturday with a plan. And what was this most chillest of plans, you ask? Libertin was going to nap.

And nap he did. But, according to Mission Local, something went horribly wrong:

[Libertin] was enjoying a lazy Saturday afternoon in a hammock he had slung between two trees when he was issued a citation under Parks Code 4.05, which prohibits “malicious defacement, damage or destruction of real or personal property.” One of the parks officers, Libertin reports, was none other than J. Chan of recent Facebook-video fame. […]

Libertin isn’t going to take this lying down. He’ll contest the $192 ticket, as he contends that his sleepy Saturday afternoon was (a) not malicious and (b) not damaging to the tree. In fact, the straps he used to hang the hammock are specifically considered “tree friendly.” Moreover, he went back and photographed the trees a day later to show how conspicuously intact they remain.

And while it may seem absurd that the city is now citing people for napping in public parks, who knows—maybe Libertin was going to litter his hammock?

[Photo: Lynn Friedman]

Burger Fools

A Joke to Divide Us

Plastered to the exterior of the Elbo Room, the above flyer promising that an In-N-Out is “coming soon” to the location plays on the very real chance that the venue will soon be replaced by condos

Pitting fans of the much-hyped burger chain against those fighting to keep San Francisco’s venues open is perhaps the perfect April Fools’ Day troll.


Poll: 65% of Voters Support Halting New Mission District Development

When Supervisor David Campos first suggested putting a temporary moratorium on building market-rate housing in the Mission, the city’s free-market enthusiasts went into overdrive to malign the proposal.  But the oft-repeated claim that the moratorium would accelerate gentrification, rather than slow displacement, has done little to curb the public appeal of the proposal.

According to the Examiner, a recent poll suggests that city voters overwhelmingly favor a short-term halt to the approval of new development projects in the Mission District:

Sixty-five percent of city voters polled said they’d support a ballot measure to halt “new project approvals in the Mission District for one year” while a plan to help businesses and nonprofits from being displaced is crafted, according to a survey of 602 likely voters conducted by David Binder and Associates in February.

Beyond naming David Binder and Associates as the pollster, the Examiner does not provide any additional context about survey. 

When reached by phone by Uptown Almanac, a representative from David Binder and Associates declined to identify who had hired the firm to conduct the poll or the methodology used. The representative also refused to acknowledge the firm had even conducted the poll in the first place.

[Photo: torbakhopper]

Art & Protest

Mural Pays Tribute to Victims of Police Violence

A mural paying tribute to victims of police violence was finished last night on the south side of the Red Poppy Art House. The artist behind the work, Yescka, painted the piece for an upcoming April 4th show of Mexican street art taking place at the Red Poppy.

The mural depicts Eric Garner, Alex Nieto, Michael Brown, and Amilcar Perez-Lopez.


Open Late on Larkin Returns With Free Show at Fleet Wood

Open Late On Larkin, a once a month roving BYOB party hosted by a number of Larkin Street businesses, is back on April 2nd. This will be the third event in what the organizers have successfully made into a continuing series. The first Open Late featured a chicken and waffle pop up by Soul Groove at Strand, a gallery show at The Loin, an opening party at Fleet Wood, and a show at Vacation (among other things).

In addition to all the standard rad stuff, this Open Late On Larkin will also feature an interactive concert performed by Hair Thing at Fleet Wood. William Kingston Davies, who is the driving force behind the group (which includes Jordan Sitkin), explained that they have “created an experimental technology for live performance” which “allows the audience to participate by transforming their smartphones into a crowd powered sound system.”

Open Late On Larkin starts at 7pm, and goes until “whenever.”

More Of The Same

The Woods Curiosity Shop to Close, Saying It's "Too Late" to Keep SF Weird

The Woods Curiosity Shop announced late last week that they will be closing their doors for good at the end of March. The store, located on 16th Street between Dolores and Guerrero, billed itself as “a cabinet of curiosities—that miniature world of marvels that recalls a time when strange, simple things still had the power inspire awe and wonder.”

The owners, sisters Lisa and Sandy Wood, announced their intention to close in a Facebook post:

The Woods has some sad news: we will be closing our sweet little shop the end of this month (March 29th will be our last day open to the public) and in April by appointment only while we move things out. We put our heart and soul into this tiny space and it will be sad to see it go. Come by and say “goodbye”!

And while the announcement points blame at no one thing in particular, the sign in the shop’s window (pictured above) suggests that there just isn’t enough weird left in The New Mission to sustain a funky shop like theirs. And in what reads like a depressing bit of clairvoyance, on their homepage under the banner of “A New Kind of Curiosity Shop” one finds the following:

The world is growing tamer and “samer” day by day. Come away to a strange and special place. A place that will enchant you, surprise you, and maybe even change you a bit. Come away to The Woods.
Tamer and samer indeed.

[Photo: Josh Ellingson]

One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Gentrification Thinkpiece

Community Nostalgic For the Types of Trash Left in Dolores Park Before the Tech Boom

It’s no secret that Dolores Park has long been a dumping ground for party and picnic refuse. Shortly after the park surged in popularity nine years ago, the garbage began piling up. By 2009, every spring brought a fresh round of media, political, and community outrage about hipsters trashing the park. But this year is different: not only are many publications covering the situation as if it’s a new one, some locals are going so far as to reminiscence about the low-class garbage strewn about in years of yore.

In a borderline hysterical piece of foggy nostalgia published in The Bold Italic—Gannett’s dumping ground for ham-fisted gentrification rants—park neighbor Daniela Blei boldly declares “Dolores Park is becoming a landfill for the privileged.” Her proof? Years ago, hipsters used to just litter lowly beer cans, but now the privileged are dumping champagne bottles and oyster shells. Emphasis added:

Every morning by 7, the first responders from SF Rec & Park arrive on the scene to do the heroic work of cleaning up entitlement. (Someone else will take care of it!) Last weekend, I spoke to the Saturday crew. They described some of the changes they’ve witnessed in recent years. “It used to be all beer cans. Now, it’s wine and Champagne bottles,” they explained. For city workers, that’s a problem because Recology SF pays to pick up beer bottles, but Rec & Park has to haul away other types of glass, like the empty magnum of Veuve Clicquot that caught my eye that morning. Add to the glut of bottles a sheer explosion in trash – everything from plastic plates to oyster shells scattered across the dirt – and Dolores Park begins to look like a wasteland of privilege.

Are we really kvetching about the changing types of garbage littering our parks? (And never mind that the statement is factually inaccurate—as the above photo from 2012’s shameful Earth Day trashing demonstrates [or from 2009, or 2008], there has always been plenty of wine and champagne bottles left around the park.)

One might think, “who the fuck cares how expensive the garbage that’s left behind is? No one should be littering the park, period.” However, the neighborhood’s newfound obsession with the types of trash piling up extends beyond The Bold Italic.

“Dolores Park Trash Tsunami,” 2010. Video: Rob Lord/Flickr

The Chronicle’s pound of geriatric newshounds also caught scent of the Dolores Park perennial trash pile recently and they’ve been mercilessly humping the story ever since. In one column, C.W. Nevius quoted a neighbor saying the trash was not from “homeless people.”

“These are people with enough money to buy good beer. You don’t see any Budweiser cans there. This is all IPA’s and pizza boxes from Delfina.”

This is the nut of our current outrage frenzy, isn’t it? The situation has always been terrible and worthy of addressing, but the trash piled up years ago and it is certainly not getting worse. The only “new” issue here is neighbors objecting to who is littering (namely, wealthy techies).

Blei in The Bold Italic specifically outlines how she remembers the good ol’ days of Dolores:

I remember my first spring in San Francisco, watching the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence take the stage. Surrounded by families young and old, sitting in a sea of smiling faces, I thought to myself: “This is a magical place.”

But these are the same Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence who kicked off our park trashing outrage cycle after their Hunky Jesus show left Dolores Park covered in trash in 2009. Blei’s model park-goers are part of the very “wasteland of privilege” problem she claims to detest. We are all part of the problem. Why the double standard?

Dolores Park Trash, 2008. Photo: aGreatNotion/Flickr

Reading these rants and news stories, you get the sinking feeling that some neighbors are inflating the situation in an effort to get the park fun shut down. In years past, complaints about the trash were appropriately co-directed at the city (for not providing adequate facilities) and the public (for being lazy, slobby shitheads). In 2012, this blog joined the neighborhood’s chorus in calling for the city to install more trash cans in the park and increase their emptying so trash wouldn’t pile up outside the bins. But a funny thing has happened since then: the city has removed over a dozen garbage cans. All the clusters of cans that once lined Dolores Street—the main entry and exit point of the park—are gone. Now it’s harder than it’s ever been to properly dispose of your trash.

And yet? No one is calling out the city for their role in the problem. Instead, all we get are demands for increased policing. The techie scapegoat works well in this case, because everyone hates techies, amirite? Plus, the narrative of “entitled newcomers” destroying a park plays well, even when it is exposed as fiction.

Of course, Our Civic Watchdogs at The Chronicle are quick to dismiss these fears. Nevius snidely brushes off concerns that neighbors are trying create a groundswell of support for a police crackdown, writing:

As for the conspiracy theory about a police crackdown, I think your tinfoil hat may be on a little too tight. The cops don’t want to spend the day checking to see if you have an open beer can. This is the Mission, where there are gangs, shootings and real-life crimes.

However, in reality, this is exactly what neighbors are doing. Blei admits, “Neighbors are now demanding a stronger police presence.” Dolores Park Works, a non-profit that ostensibly represents all park users, has repeatedly called for the city to “shut the joint down.” And Supervisor Scott Wiener, who has been calling for a “culture shift” in the park since 2013, has been grandstanding over the past two months, calling litterers “sociopaths” and demanding an “expansion” of police enforcement so we can see “tangible results.”

But catching a litterbug is tough business for a few park rangers in a park filled up with 10,000 picnickers a day—especially considering that it’s difficult to determine what is or isn’t litter as the trash lays beside sitting groups.

Instead, we read reports of people being ticketed for drinking beer and playing music, irrelevant to them littering or not. And then there was this scene from a few weekends ago, in which five officers came to the park to fine a Latino man for selling ice cream outside the children’s playground:

The trash situation in Dolores Park is unacceptable, and it has long been unacceptable. People should pack out their trash. And the city should recognize that the crowds need a place to dispose of that garbage and reinstall our trash cans.

But is hassling the local paleta guy really going to fix Dolores Park’s trash problem? Is fining people for smoking or drinking a beer going to curb the litter? Of course not. Unfortunately, when the community pretends the trash a class problem, we get the kind of delusional solutions that only the delusional could possibly think up.

[Lead Photo: DPW]