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Castro biz closes; another one may need permit

by Sari Staver

Sweet Inspiration will close Thursday, March 1. Photo: Sari Staver
Sweet Inspiration will close Thursday, March 1. Photo: Sari Staver  

Sweet Inspiration, the iconic coffee shop that has served gigantic slices of seven-inch-high layer cakes for the past three decades, has joined the list of Castro businesses that are closing their doors.

Meanwhile, a complaint has been filed against a real estate office that wants to open at Market and Church streets, which could result in a conditional use permit being required.

Located at 2239 Market Street (near Sanchez) Sweet Inspiration experimented with several different formulas before announcing that March 1 would be its last day of business.

Emails to the owners, celebrity chef Ryan Scott and sandwichmeister Ike Shehadeh, were not returned at press time. Shehadeh, who launched Ike's Sandwiches on 16th Street in 2007, now has 31 locations on the West coast.

At the same time, one of the largest empty storefronts, 2390 Market Street, at Castro, formerly occupied by Pottery Barn, has been rented by gay mayoral candidate Mark Leno as his campaign headquarters.

And the storefront at 1234 Castro Street, adjacent to the long-shuttered Patio Cafe, has been leased by gay District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy as his campaign headquarters. Controversial landlord Les Natali, who has several vacancies in the neighborhood, owns both the Patio Cafe space and Sheehy's headquarters.

And on another positive note for the neighborhood, South of Market-based Black Hammer Brewing is planning to open an indoor beer garden at the Duboce apartment building at 2196 Market Street (at Sanchez), according to a window sign announcing the summer opening of "Willkommen."

But two other large storefronts in the neighborhood remain a question.

One, 2099 Market Street (at Church), is supposed to be rented to Compass Real Estate, which signed a lease to locate its office into the long vacant ground floor commercial space, according to the city planning department.

But a complaint was filed with the city, who notified the landlord, Veritas Investments, that it may have to obtain a conditional use permit to allow a business office to occupy ground floor space.

Justin Sato, chief operating officer of Veritas, which announced the new tenants at a community meeting in January, told the Bay Area Reporter in an email that "there has been no determination that a conditional use permit is required. At this point we are only dealing with a complaint that was filed by a member of the public, which anyone can do for numerous reasons, with or without cause, on the Compass space. We are reaching out to the city to discuss and intend to resolve."

David Troup, chairman of the land use committee of the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association told the B.A.R. in a phone interview that "the neighborhood doesn't need another real estate office."

But if Veritas were to seek a conditional use permit, DTNA "would certainly listen to their case" and work with it to find a suitable tenant, Troup added.

At the community meeting in late January, Daniel Bergerac, a gay man who's president of Castro Merchants and owns a dog-washing business in the neighborhood, ticked off a list of businesses that have left the Castro, including Chilango, Sparky's, Crepevine, Snowbrite, and Church Street Flowers. All these businesses were tenants of Veritas, "which has a bad reputation" as a landlord, he said.

"I am really sad to lose a neighborhood institution" like Sweet Inspiration, said Bergerac. "I had hoped that two guys with experience in the San Francisco restaurant industry would be able to make a go of it there. Hopefully, someone else can take over that space and reinvent it."

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