SF Small Biz Briefs: Starbucks Gets Sneaky, Morty’s Gets Beer etc

Planning Issues, A Scarf Drive, Parties, Eats, Openings, Closings, Sales, etc

For an update of local small biz happenings around the bay read on…

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Richmond residents and small biz owners are up in arms about an end run around the planning & permit process that Starbucks has made in the neighborhood recently. Back in September, after much neighborhood outcry, a 10-1 Board of Supes vote ended the massive coffee chain’s plans for it’s 81st SF location at 4th and Geary. Now the Seattle based formula retailer has tried to slip in unnoticed & unpermitted inside the local neighborhood Safeway at 7th & Cabrillo. Neighbors alerted city officials when they noticed a stealth Starbucks’ kiosk that was constructed but left covered up when the grocer opened in December. One neighborhood activist is irked that he carefully examined the Planning Department’s approved Safeway floor plan and there was no mention of any coffee kiosk, no floor drains or sinks, not even any electrical outlets in the floor listed. Safeway and Starbucks corporate representatives are tight-lipped and have delayed meeting with those that are concerned about this Prop G violation.

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Another Prop G related anti-formula retail fight is brewing in North Beach. It appears that an LA based yogurt chain called Red Mango, is planning to open where the late Gold Spike restaurant once was at 527 Columbus. Neighborhood organizers are already gearing up for a fight, as the Planning Commission has yet to approve the joint’s conditional use permit. Red Mango started in the US in 2002, but has over 130 locations in South Korea, and plans for dozens more in the US. The U.S company headed by Daniel Kim, a graduate of Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, currently has 15 US locations. Their formula is manufactured by mega dairy dessert concern YoCream, and Red Mango bills themselves as “The Original Healthy Frozen Yogurt” while toppings for their treats curiously include such healthy dietary supplements as Fruity Pebbles and Cap’n Crunch. With one of the local investors supposedly being a former winning contestant from Survivor, look for a feisty prolonged battle.

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Saturday is the “grand re-opening” party of the Three Dollar Bill Cafe.

Located in the lower level of the LGBT Center at Market & Octavia, the Cafe’s owners Vince & Pete invite folks to come down and check out their new remodeling. In addition the food, the guys are also now serving Soju cocktails. The Cafe is a great community resource and holds many interesting art exhibits and gatherings including a weekly Deaf Coffee Social, Knitting, Movie and Open Mic nights. Check out more info at http://www.threedollarbill.com
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RubyDolls, an exotique boutique at 1318 Grant Ave in North Beach is having a storewide sale starting this weekend. Local designer Ruby has items from her sexy RubyGirl line, as well as a wide ranging assortment of remarkably affordable skirts, coats, tops, jeans, outfits, accessories and much more going out the door at way below the neighborhood’s average prices. The place is open daily from 12-8pm and seem’s to be getting some rave reviews from fashion savvy ladies on Yelp!

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At 7:00 pm tonight, Friday Jan 18th the independent Booksmith store up on Haight St hosts an event for the release of “Busted: True Stories of Getting Caught in the Act”. The event will be emceed by Fray Editor and Publisher Derek Powazek who will be bringing along guest readers like Jack Boulware, Steve Silberman, Kevin Smokler, Joe Loya, and Kate Kotler. The Booksmith has been supporting local authors since 1976, and owner Gary Frank is a proud member of the San Francisco Locally Owned Merchant’s Alliance. The Booksmith also has regular signings and readings, and maintains a great website that even the old Gray Lady, the NY Times has saluted at http://www.booksmith.com

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Before becoming the Rockit Room, the Richmond venue at 406 Clement was for many years the Last Day Saloon, and a slew of greats played the stage including Dr. John, The Meters, Ike Turner, Allman Brothers, John Lee Hooker, Etta James, Moby Grape, Country Joe & the Fish, Supersuckers and many, many more.

On Tuesday, January 22 any musician that cares to can join that historic legacy by climbing the stairs and simply signing up. The club has an Open Stage policy, where a drum kit and amps are provided for any solo cats or bands that want to jump up and do their thing. A soundman is present to finetune the chaos, and admission is totally free. Musicians can sign up for the random rotating slots starting at 8:30.

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The owners of Morty’s Deli used to work at Saint Anthony’s and after tiring of soup kitchen fare, decided to create a business on the rather sketchy corner of Hyde & Golden Gate. Morty’s Deli at 280 Golden Gate has since been a popular Civic Center lunch spot for the past year for a growing number of loyal neighborhood dwellers, workers & students. The concept of their fare is simple but satisfying, and despite claims of being just an East Coast Deli, owner Tim’s training at the Culinary Academy, as well as stints at upscale Andalu and as Executive Chef at the Last Supper Club do tend to bleed through. Popular regular menu items include a Big Easy muffaletta, a fresh Meatball Sub slathered in a tasty marinara and even a Soy Reuben on Rye for yer vegetarian pals. Just recently the place started opening on Saturdays and was approved to serve beer so their taps are flowing. Stop in for a brew and one of the yummy specials if yer hungry and in the area at lunchtime. In a hurry? Check out the menu online, and call ahead at 567 – DELI.

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New to the city’s caffeine scene is Coffee Bar, at 1890 Bryant Street near Mariposa and 17th in the industrial-esque zone of the Mission. Run by two dudes named Luigi and Jason , they are offering the ‘hood tasty espresso, free wifi of course, plus an assortment of snacks,salads, sandwiches and even some vino in their courtyard.

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While some places open, others shutter. The New Year saw the surprise shut downs of two local, already reincarnated dining institutions. They say it’s not a good idea to wake the dead, but that didn’t stop the recent owner’s of Trader Vic’s & The Washington Square Bar & Grill. Both joints were venerable longtime local hangouts that had closed, but attempted to reopen.

The Washbag, as it was affectionately known was locked up after it’s New Year’s Eve Party and never reopened. Upscale local barflys and gadflys are still in shock. Originally opened by Ed Moose in the early 1970′s, it became an omnipresent fixture in the old Herb Caen columns, but never regained it’s former 80′s celeb-filled glory after a late 1990′s ownership switch. Add a stupid shut down period to become the ill-fated Cobalt Tavern & eventual repopening as the Washbag a few years ago, and it just wasn’t the same.

Trader Vic’s, after years in it’s original SF location on Cosmo Place had disappeared for a spell and tried to reinvigorate at the former Stars’ space on a lonely stretch of Golden Gate near Civic Center. They apparently couldn’t move enough Mai Tai’s to keep the doors open either .

The Emeryville location on Anchor Drive remains open though.

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Plans are afoot to turn the city’s last remaining little Zao Noodle House up on California @ Filmore into a Pizzeria Delfina. Zao started their mini-chain of Pan-Asian light fare here in 1999 up on 16th near Market, and also at one time operated a spot on Chestnut and another in the Sunset. They’ve since expanded to suburban areas and apparenty blame their exodus on the high cost of doing business in San Francisco. After Zao splits in early February, Pizzeria Delfina is expected to open by early summer.

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The Mission recently received the arrival of the Bollyhood Cafe at 3372 19th St next to the Little Baobob. Serving Indian tapas, Red Stripe Beer? and featuring bollywood flicks on a big screen, it intends to spice up the area’s already burgeoning nitelife. Mr. Good Ginger Marco Senghor of the neighborhood’s successful Baobob spots is behind this latest venture into Mission nitelife.

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Fans of the almost always busy Burma Super Star on Clement might want to check out Bagan, their new sister restaurant at 1345 Park Street in Alameda. Serving essentially the same menu as Burma Super Star, the line is non-existent but the food is just as good. Try dishes like oddly satisfying Samosa Soup, or the Tea Leaf Salad which is mixed at your table featuring fermented tea leaves, peanuts, pine nuts, sesame seeds, with ground dried shrimp and lemon juice.
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Local business travelers may want to know about the addition of Oakland Airport to the “Clear” airport security checkpoint system. Enrollment begins in February for pre-screening travelers that want to save time in TSA security lines. A Verified Identity Pass costs about $100 and has to be renewed annually if you wish to stay part of the express service program. The pass is lalready in use @ SFO, as well as other cities like San Jose, New York, Orlando etc. It’s a little money gouge to make you a special elite participant in the joyous warm & fuzzy federal realm of Homeland Security.

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Speaking of Warm & Fuzzy:

one local high school student is organizing a scarf drive in the city. She’s reaching out to her fellow knitters & crocheters to make scarves until Valentine’s Day and donate them to those who are homeless and could really use some additional homemade warmth this chilly time of year. The student has arranged with local businesses as drop off locations ( see below) for the scarves which will be routed to the homeless recipients via the Bay Area Rescue Mission. For more info the young lad has set up a Warm And Fuzzy MySpace page with additional info

Imagiknit
3897 18th St (at Sanchez)
www.imagiknit.com

Greenwich Yarn
2073 Greenwich St (at Webster)
www.greenwichyarn.com

Atelier Yarns
1945 Divisadero St (between Pine and California)
www.atelieryarns.com

Mendels/Far-Out Fabrics
1556 Haight St (between Clayton and Ashbury)
www.mendels.com

The Gables
5636 Geary Blvd (at 21st Ave)
(415)751-8152

Wishbone
601 Irving St (at 7th Ave)
www.wishbonesf.com

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