Profits Eclipsed By Changing Neighborhood

Gavin Newsom's Company Buys Luna Park, Will Turn It Into a Bar Linked to MatrixFillmore

It seems that Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom’s business empire has its eyes on Valencia Street. According to public records, PlumpJack Group has purchased Luna Park. We’re told the long-standing Valencia Street restaurant will be turned into a bar.

When reached by phone, owner AJ Gilbert said Luna Park will close by the end of the year. He stressed that all of the current employees would be invited to stay on with the new business, and that he is “really excited about who’s buying” the location. While he declined to inform Uptown Almanac as to the identity of the new owner, he said that it is a “great buyer” and that the new bar will be “a great addition to the neighborhood.”

Business records filed with the state say that Luna Park’s new owners, Gaslight Cafe Partners, are located at 3138 Fillmore St. That is the same address as MatrixFillmore, a Marina ultra lounge known for its bottle service, fireplaces, and being popular with pickup artists. MatrixFillmore is owned by PlumpJack Group, which was founded by the Lieutenant Governor. Newsom is still a partner in the business and “consults with the management team on matters of vision.” PlumpJack is currently run by Newsom’s sister.

Asked for additional detail as to why Gilbert was selling the seemingly successful business, Gilbert explained that he is preemptively closing Luna Park to avoid projected increases in labor costs. Specifically, he mentioned the upcoming vote to increase the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour, which he believes is assured passage. Gilbert went on to say that the restaurant industry allows for employees to rise through its ranks and that his General Manager started as a bus boy 15 years ago, but that “waiters do not need to be making $15 a hour” pre-tip.

“The rising costs in San Francisco is a really important factor [in the decision.]”

Gilbert was adamant that with the rising costs of labor, a restaurant with a large staff offering five separate menus is simply impractical. “I ask everyone to take a look at the amount of employees Luna Park employs, and then to look at the number of employees the new business employs.” The implication being that the new business will have less employees by necessity. While this may seem to contradict his previous statement about all current employees being invited to stay on, it should be noted that restaurant and bar employees often seek new jobs in times of transition. Take Pop’s Bar: the new owner offered the bar’s former staff jobs, but most declined.

When asked about PlumpJack’s involvement in the sale, Gilbert stopped responding to our inquiries.

This post has been heavily edited since its original publication.

[Photos: Allison Busch, UA tipster]


Yet Another Street Food Park Comes to the Mission

The new-and-improved Mission (TM®) we’ve all found ourselves living in can’t support one lesbian bar, but it can apparently support four food truck parks. SocketSite reports that the parking lot on the corner of Valencia and Cesar Chavez is slated to turn into a permanent home for food trucks:

Already home to one semi-permanent cart, plans to covert the used car lot on the northeast corner of Valencia and Ceasar Chavez into the “Valencia Food Truck Park” have been drafted and submitted to planning for review.

At the crossroads of the Valencia Street and Cesar Chavez bike corridors, the proposed park would accommodate up to seven (7) trucks at a time, with seating, bike racks and a permanent bathroom as well.

Barely a month after the opening of Duboce Truck Stop, this newest addition to the not-so-mobile mobile eatery game proves, yet again, that we still haven’t reached peak food truck.

[Photo: Google Street View]

Valencia Spreads Fast

Another Queer Bar Forced Out of the Mission: The Lexington Club Is Being Sold

Lila Thirkield, the owner of the Lexington Club, has just announced that she will be selling her iconic queer bar. In an open letter, she admits that gentrification has pushed a portion of her clientele out of the neighborhood. The result of which has meant less business to sustain the bar, which has been simultaneously hit with rent increases.  Now she’s left but no choice but to sell the business.

She doesn’t say when it is being sold, or who the new owners will be. She also doesn’t say specifically when The Lexington Club will stop being the Mission’s last dyke bar.

It’s worth noting that just a few decades ago, the area around Valencia Street was San Francisco’s lesbian capital. But that time has passed. Valencia’s queer spaces were pushed out long ago, creating a real estate vacuum soon filled by upscale cocktail bars and artisan eateries. Now the street that was once so welcoming to the lesbian community is squeezing out what is left of it.

Emphasis added:

To My Dear Community –

It is with a heavy heart, great thought and consideration that I have made the very difficult decision to sell The Lexington Club.

Eighteen years ago I opened The Lex to create a space for the dykes, queers, artists, musicians and neighborhood folks who made up the community that surrounded it. Eighteen years later, I find myself struggling to run a neighborhood dyke bar in a neighborhood that has dramatically changed. A few years back my rent was raised to market rate, and though it was difficult, we seemed to weather it at first. But as the neighborhood continued to change, we began to see sales decline, and they continued to do so. We tried new concepts, different ways of doing things, but we were struggling. When a business caters to about 5% of the population, it has tremendous impact when 1% of them leave. When 3% or 4% of them can no longer afford to live in the neighborhood, or the City, it makes the business model unsustainable.

Please know that if I thought The Lexington Club could be saved, I would not be writing this. I understand what a huge loss this is to the community. It is difficult and painful to lose our queer spaces. However, my faith in queer San Francisco still runs deep. It is the best place in the world and dykes and queers are still an integral part of this city. They always will be. I have spent the better part of my adult life facilitating and creating community among dykes and queers in SF and I will not stop. The Lexington Club had an incredible eighteen-year run. It will forever live on in my heart, as I’m sure it will for many of you. To all who were a part of it - thank you for your contribution to a great chapter in San Francisco and a great chapter in my own life. And, of course, a huge thank you to my amazing staff. We made some incredible memories, and we will make more.

[Photo: shoegazer]

This Can All Be Yours

Bernal Heights Rental Market Remains Awful

Your daily reminder of the depressing soul-suck that is the San Francisco rental market comes in the form of this comically absurd Craigslist posting. Touting such pluses as its location in the “convenient walkable Bernal Heights neighborhood” and the palatial amenity of a “private bath” (which: lol), this 200 square foot gem, originally listed as “an Airbnb tourist rental,” can now be yours on a more long-term basis for a mere $1,400 per month.


Local's Something

Protest Against "Local" Businesses Continues

Local’s Corner, the restaurant on 23rd and Bryant owned by Yaron Milgrom, has had its share of trouble since opening in 2012. The restaurant, along with other Milgrom owned “Local” businesses (Local Mission Eatery, Local Mission Market), has been accused by some of catering to the affected tastes of those that many in the Mission don’t consider local. And it is perhaps this very insistence on naming all his businesses on some variation of the “local” theme that attracted the ire of neighbors in a manner not experienced by similarly upscale places like Zoe’s on 24th and Folsom.

But things really took a turn for the shit in May of 2013 when claims were made that Local’s Corner had refused to seat a Latino family. As reported at the time by El Tecolote:

In the midst of the Cesar Chavez Day celebration on April 20, Cuadra and her family of 5 approached Local’s Corner restaurant at 23rd and Bryant streets expecting to be seated with ease. However, they were denied service by a waiter at the establishment who told the family that he was unable to accommodate them without further explanation.

Shocked and disheartened, Cuadra wrote a formal report to District 9 Supervisor David Campos, who confirmed via email that he is taking the matter seriously, and has since sent the report to the Human Right’s Charter for further investigation.

And while Milgrom met with protestors in May of this year following another incident of vandalism, the above pictured spray paint clearly demonstrates that whatever beef the neighborhood has with Local’s Corner has yet to be resolved.

[Photo: Mission Mission]


Rainbow to Open New Cafe This Friday

Rainbow Grocery is slated to open a new coffee shop this coming Friday. The Collective Cafe, as it is being called, will serve Stumptown coffee and is located next to the main Rainbow entrance on 13th Street.

According to the press release:

We have worked with Stumptown Coffee Roasters to learn how to brew their highest quality (and most ethically grown) beans with the most delicious results possible. […]

The actual structure of the café was designed and built as a collaborative effort between Rainbow worker-owners, local fabricator Hubbard Foss, and architect Tom McElroy. The design was inspired by the work of artist Andrea Zittel.

Swing by this Friday for some free samples in celebration of the opening. Oh, and yes, the cafe will have outdoor patio seating.

[Photo: Rainbow]


The Mill Narrowly Avoids Becoming Toast

Last night The Mill, San Francisco’s premier $4.00 toast emporium, caught fire and brought the SFFD out in force. Fortunately, it appears that nothing was seriously damaged, though the place was in need of a serious airing out when Uptown Almanac checked it out last night.

Update: According to Eater, the fire was the result of a pop-up dinner:

Wilcox, formerly of Mill Valley Beerworks and Gjelina, was holding a “shrimp shack” pop-up at the Divisadero bakery known for its $4 $3.75 toast when, according to a tipster, the ceiling caught fire. […]

As it turns out, the culprit was the Mill’s stock in trade: built-up flour that had accumulated in their flue, and combusted when exposed to flame. The diners’ money was refunded and the pop-up was shut down for the night […]

The Mill reopened on Saturday and business continues as usual. “Small fire in the oven flue, could have been a lot worse,” owner Josey Baker told Hoodline. “In the end, not a huge deal, though a solid scare.”

[Photo: julia_iglesias]

Mission Playground

SF Parks Department Suspends Permit Process For Mission Soccer Field

It turns out the Mission Playground is no longer for sale.

Yesterday, San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department repealed its previous policy allowing adults to rent Mission Playground’s soccer field. The decision is unsurprising after the Rec and Parks received tremendous backlash for quietly selling public space for private use, resulting in a bunch of Dropbox/Airbnb employees thinking they could book the Mission Playground without confrontation, as we watched in the infamous video we wrote about last week.

The decision is a step in the right direction, but not enough for one of the kids who was playing at Mission Playground the day of the tech encounter. During their pick up game against the adults who tried to kick them off the field, he claims to have been kicked in the back. The youth says he feels it was it was no accident, and plans to press charges against the man who allegedly kicked him.

He told Mission Local, “I’m not going down without a fight,” adding “I want an apology to my face.”


Get Drunk With Your Costumed Pet For a Good Cause

The SF SPCA has finally provided you with a potentially acceptable reason to dress your loveable pet up like the Cowardly Lion. On Thursday, October 30th, they’re throwing a “Wizard of Oz themed cocktail party” entitled “There’s No Place Like Home.”

The SPCA lets you know what to expect at the upcoming drunken cuddle-fest:

Celebrate the 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz and help thousands of homeless pets find their way home for the holidays by starting Halloween early with the San Francisco SPCA! Admission is free - RSVP now!

The weekend kicks off on the night before Halloween with a cocktail party hosted by the San Francisco SPCA and 7x7. Indulge your tastebuds with vegetarian and vegan delights from San Francisco’s favorite food trucks: Hella Vegan Eats, Manna Sushi, Kasa Indian, Eurobistros, Frozen Kuhsterd, and Kara’s Cupcakes, then sidle up to the cocktail bar or enjoy suds from Lagunitas Brewing Company. Snap photos on the Yellow Brick Road and meet @Tunameltsmyheart of Instagram fame. Let your pet bask in the limelight or share the spotlight with matching costumes.  Dorothy and Toto?  Scarecrow and Lion?

Tickets are free and available now, so get on it.


Bike News Commenter Bingo Channels Stanley Roberts

Continuing the fine tradition of trying to make bingo relevant, Seattle-based blog The Bicycle Story just published the above “Bike News Commenter Bingo.” And while this comes from our friends up north, it is hard not to imagine our very own Stanley Roberts spouting off the above generalizations in his escalating efforts to demonize the cyclists of San Francisco.