Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 49 / 7 December 2017
 

Cafe, chain stores win reprieve

NEWS


m.bajko@ebar.com

Entertainment Commissioner and nightlife proponent Terrance Alan, left, and Cafe Flore owner J.D. Petras at last week's Planning Commission meeting. Photo: Bill Wilson
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A Castro cafe struggling to turn a profit will be allowed to go to 24-hour food service after winning approval for its plans despite opposition from some Duboce Triangle residents. In a separate development, a ban on chain stores in the city's gay neighborhood has failed to win support of a Castro-based merchants group.

The vote last week by the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro is likely the death knell for the proposed formula retail ban at this time. Without the backing of MUMC, one of the city's strongest business groups, the proposal has little chance of gaining support at City Hall.

As reported in last week's Bay Area Reporter , District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty also does not support such a ban, which would need board approval to take effect. Only one person spoke in favor of the proposal at the MUMC meeting Thursday, December 6, saying enactment of such a restriction would improve the shopping district's appeal to foreign and out-of-town visitors.

But detractors of the ban argued some chain stores could be a good fit for the Castro and draw in shoppers from other parts of the city. Others stated the city's requirement that any formula retail needs to apply for a conditional use permit before opening is adequate enough.

"I think the conditional use permit process works," said Herb Cohn, MUMC's treasurer and president of the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District, which also opposed the ban.

Patrick Batt, a past MUMC president, argued that enactment of a ban would strip the group of its influence with city leaders.

"We are one of the most verbal, vocal merchant associations in this city. That took a lot of effort. There isn't a business in this world that doesn't know if they want to come into this neighborhood they need MUMC's support," said Batt. "If you pass this ban then you neuter this organization."

MUMC member J.D. Petras, owner of Cafe Flore, had the backing of both the merchant group and Dufty for his application to go to round-the-clock food service and extend his alcohol license to 2 a.m. After taking public testimony for nearly two hours at their meeting last Thursday evening, planning commissioners unanimously supported Petras's proposal with several caveats.

Commissioners imposed several conditions on their approval, including restricting use of the cafe's sidewalk tables until 9 p.m. Sundays through Wednesdays and 11 p.m. the rest of the week, and requiring Petras to close down his outdoor patio space at 3 a.m. until next September, when the commission will hold an informational hearing to determine if it should allow 24-hour use of the outdoor tables.

Petras must still receive approval from the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control for the extension of his bar hours and seek approval for amplified music at night from the city's Entertainment Commission; both are expected to vote in favor. The planning commissioners voted to require a sound engineer with the city commission to check Cafe Flore's sound levels twice over the next nine months and have a cafe employee monitor the outdoor space.

Petras said he was pleased with the commissioners' decision.

"The patio is extremely important to the survival of Cafe Flore," he said during the meeting. "We are desperately trying to meet payroll and taxes and everything else."

The trial period will allow time to evaluate just what impacts the new hours will have on the neighborhood. Neighbors who fought the proposal are fearful of increased noise late at night.

"The issue is not a matter of residents versus commercial needs, it is a matter of balancing those needs," said Sabrina Chaw, who lives near the cafe and argued its use of the patio should be curtailed during weeknights.

But the cafe's supporters argued by staying open later, Cafe Flore will alleviate many of the residents' complaints about people urinating on the street and talking loudly on the way to their cars after the bars close.

"Cafe Flore has a patio and that is where these people should be and not on the streets," said Jeremy Paul, a Castro resident and consultant hired by the cafe.

The commissioners seemed unswayed by opponents of Cafe Flore's proposal.

"San Francisco should be more of an entertainment place," said Commissioner William Lee.

Commission Vice President Christina Olague added, "People say we don't live in Kansas anymore. I am not so sure. I am beginning to think if we don't live in the Midwest because so many of our late night establishments have closed. I am okay with the patio use."






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