Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 50 / 14 December 2017
 

New restaurants headed to SF’s gay Castro district in early 2014

Two new eateries are headed to San Francisco’s gay Castro district in early 2014, while a famed local chocolate company will be unable to open its new store in the gayborhood in time for the Christmas holiday season.

Spanish tapas set for new spot on 18th

Going into the former garage space below the Castro Country Club at 4058 18th Street will be a new Spanish tapas place called Beso, the Spanish word for kiss. It is the second restaurant from the owners of the French bistro Bisou – French for kiss – at 2367 Market Street below dance club The Cafe.

“We are very proud to be in this neighborhood and we want to expand in this neighborhood,” said chef co-owner Nick Ronan during the monthly meeting this morning (Thursday, November 7) of Castro Merchants, which voted to drop its old moniker of the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro.

The space had been approved for a restaurant by planning commissioners back in February when it was slated to be a sausage grill operated by the building owner George “Jorge” Maumer. Yet, as the Bay Area Reporter noted at the time on its blog, those plans were already in doubt prior to the vote.

Ronan and his business partner, Damien Chabaud-Arnault, opened Bisou nearly 4 years ago. Their new venture likely will open in March next year, with seating for up to 52 indoors.

They are seeking neighborhood support for a beer and wine liquor license from state officials, as they do not need approval again from the city’s planning body for the restaurant. The merchants group voted unanimously to back their application to serve a limited selection of alcohol.

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New Mexican place in the works

Two of the partners behind gay sports bar Hi Tops are looking to open a new Mexican sit-down restaurant nearby at 2200 Market Street in the new mixed-use development dubbed The Century San Francisco (seen at left). Co-owners Jesse Woodward and Dana Gleim hope to welcome diners to their so-far-unnamed eatery by June next year.

“This will not be a taqueria,” said Woodward.

They are buying the liquor license once owned by the property owner, Leticia Luna, who had operated her own Mexican restaurant Leticia’s at the site for a time. Prior to the demolition of the building that had stood there was the Thai House restaurant.

Woodward and Gleim have signed a lease for the nearly 3,000 square foot corner retail space at the intersection of Market and 15th Streets. There is a second ground-floor commercial space fronting Market Street that is for lease.

They filed their application this week to seek a conditional use permit and have yet to be scheduled for a hearing before the planning commission. It is likely they will be approved, as they are Castro residents and local business owners taking over a prominent corner location as opposed to a chain store or formula retailer.

The new restrictions on such national chains opening along Market Street that were adopted earlier this year will not impact their proposal.

“We need a conditional use permit because the building was demolished,’ Woodward said during this morning’s meeting of the Castro business group, which voted unanimously to support the proposed restaurant.

The plans call for 12 sidewalk seats and 80 seats indoors, with a bar lounge. The interior space had initially been designed for a bank.

But after an 18-month moratorium on financial businesses opening on Market Street was enacted this summer, Luna approached the Hi Tops team about operating a restaurant in the space.

Woodward said they were able to work with Luna’s architects to redesign the oddly shaped storefront to fit the needs of an eatery.

They plan to open for dinner during the week from 4 to 11 p.m. and on weekends for brunch, lunch and dinner from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Lunch is also a possibility on weekdays.

Chocolate store delayed

Down the street at the Safeway shopping plaza, South San Francisco-based See’s Candies will not be able to open their first location in the Castro in time for Christmas. Its planning commission hearing on the proposed store has been delayed and is now scheduled to take place Thursday, December 12.

The company’s roots date back to 1920 when its first shop opened  in San Francisco but is now owned by Warren Buffett and his Berkshire Hathaway. See’s wants to open in the 1,900 square foot space that had been occupied by Mike’s Cameras, formerly known as Wolf Camera, at 2016 Market Street.

Because the chocolate company is a formula retailer, it is subject to the rules that require any chain store that brings the concentration of such businesses within a 300-foot radius to 20 percent or more be automatically recommended for disapproval by planning staff.

Yet, if there is enough neighborhood support for the business, planning commissioners have the discretion to overlook the staff’s determination and approve the permit request.

Due it its location in the shopping complex, See’s triggers the percentage rules, though the company is hopeful it will win approval.

The Castro merchants voted for a second time today to back See’s, while two of the Castro’s neighborhood associations have decided to take a neutral stance.

 

 

— Matthew S. Bajko, November 7, 2013 @ 6:27 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Genderqueer teen recovering after being set on fire

An Oakland high school student is recovering but faces more surgery after his skirt was set on fire while he slept on an AC Transit bus this week.

Luke Fleischman, who identifies as genderqueer and goes by the name Sasha, was riding the 57 bus in Oakland Monday evening, returning from a class at Maybeck High School in Berkeley.

Media outlets are reporting that he will remain hospitalized for several weeks.

(Luke Sasha Fleischman. Photo via KRON)

(Luke Sasha Fleischman. Photo via KRON)

Fleischman, 18, does not identify as male or female but rather as nonbinary gender, according to his mother, Debbie, who refers to him using male pronouns.

“My son considers himself agender,” Debbie Fleischman told the Oakland Tribune. “He likes to wear a skirt. It’s his statement. That’s how he feels comfortable dressing.”

Fleischman is now in the burn unit at St. Francis Hospital in San Francisco, and is suffering from second and third degree burns to the legs, which will require skin grafts. Doctors report the teen’s condition as stable.

The 16-year-old suspect, identified by media outlets as Richard Thomas, has been charged as an adult and was charged with a hate crime, according to SF Weekly.

Outrage among community members quickly turned to support, as Fleischman’s friends set up a donation page to help cover medical expenses, according to SF Weekly. The page took in $20,000 within 48 hours and has since been closed down.

Tiffany Woods with Tri-City Health Center in Fremont also serves as a liaison with the Oakland Police Department. She told the Bay Area Reporter that the family felt they had received enough in donations.

“Oakland PD has been proactive throughout,” Woods said. “They reached out to brief me about a possible community crime, and for guidance on language understanding around Sasha’s gender identity and expression. The quick response by Oakland PD in identifying and bringing into custody the perpetrator of this horrific act of violence against Luke Sasha Fleischman should be commended. They wanted the suspect off the street and in custody as soon as possible. Throughout the briefings they expressed how horrific they felt this crime was.”

Calls to the Oakland Police Department’s spokeswoman weren’t immediately returned.

Woods pointed out that Fleischman identifies as neither male nor female and prefers the pronoun “they” instead of “he” or “she.”

Woods, who is the transgender programs manager at the health center, offered a few thoughts on how incidents such as these can be prevented in the future.

“Transgender and non-conforming individuals routinely experience acts of violence against them for simply expressing their gender identity,” she said. “The recent horrific acts of violence in Oakland against a young gender non-conforming individual while riding a public bus, as well as the murder of Brandy Martell in 2012, are everyday reminders of how deadly and pervasive anti-transgender bias is.”

Woods urged respect for people.

“We need to teach compassion, empathy, and respect for everybody, regardless of gender identity, expression, sexual orientation, culture, religion, or disability,” she said. “Whatever someone might have an issue with, we need to respect those differences. It starts with parenting, schools, and communities. It takes everyone to create safe and respectful communities for all.”

Woods said that her thoughts and prayers were with Fleischman and the family during the recovery process.

People can donate money to St Francis Hospital Burn Center in Fleischman’s name:
St Francis Hospital Foundation, c/o burn center 900 Hyde Street, San Francisco, CA 94109

reported by David-Elijah Nahmod

— Cynthia Laird, @ 4:16 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Senate passes ENDA

The Senate Thursday (November 7) approved the flagship piece of legislation that the LGBT community has fought for over the past 19 years and more.

The 64-32 vote marked the first time the Senate has approved the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The only other Senate vote, in 1996, failed on a vote of 49-50.

ENDA seeks to add language to the federal Civil Rights Act to prohibit employers from taking adverse employment actions against employees or job applicants based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” It applies to employers with more than 15 employees but exempts some employers based on the degree to which they are involved in religious activities.

(Senator Tammy Baldwin. Photo: Chuck Colbert)

(Senator Tammy Baldwin. Photo: Chuck Colbert)

While the bill is not as comprehensive as the original legislation introduced by the late Representative Bella Abzug in 1974 and championed by the late Senator Ted Kennedy beginning in 1996, it is considered to be both a critical step toward securing equal rights for LGBT people and a powerful symbolic asset.

The major hurdle now is the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has repeatedly said he would not bring ENDA to the floor for a vote, saying he does not believe the legislation is necessary and that it would lead to frivolous lawsuits.

That looming hurdle did not dampen the enthusiasm of senators praising the Senate for its passage of the bill.

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), who took the lead on ENDA in the Senate after the death of Kennedy, praised Kennedy’s leadership and that of others in both political parties.

“From the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution to our battles over slavery, our battles over gender discrimination, race discrimination, we have fought to capture that vision of equality and liberty and opportunity and fairness embedded in our founding documents and our founding vision,” said Merkley, at a press conference after the first two votes were secured. “We’ve taken a huge stride today in that direction.”

Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who championed the bill in his Senate committee, said, “Today is an historic day.” He noted that the Congress passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1994.

“Now, we have sort of finished the trilogy,” said Harkin, who also praised Merkley’s leadership on ENDA.

“We wouldn’t be here without Jeff Merkley,” said Harkin. “He spearheaded this whole effort.” And Harkin called out Senator Tammy Baldwin’s (D-Wisconsin) involvement “instrumental.”

The passage of ENDA came after the Senate first rejected an amendment to dramatically expand the number of employers who could claim a religious exemption to ENDA. The amendment, introduced by Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania), needed 60 votes to pass.

Section 6 of the original bill stated, “This act shall not apply to a corporation, association, educational institution or institution of learning, or society that is exempt from the religious discrimination provisions of title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

On November 6 the Senate approved, by voice vote, an amendment from six Republican senators led by Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to ban state and local governments from “retaliating against religious groups that take action only permissible because of the religious exemption clause” in ENDA. While LGBT groups were not enthusiastic about the Portman amendment, they didn’t oppose it.

But nearly every LGBT group and supporter opposed the Toomey amendment. It sought to expand the exemption to include entities “managed by a church or religious organization, officially affiliated with a particular religion, or [that] teach a curriculum directed toward propagating a particular religion.” It would also apply to organizations with “both religious and secular functions.”

Speaking on behalf of his amendment Thursday morning, Toomey said ENDA “makes a strong stand” for equality. But he said religious freedom is also an important value. He said he thinks his amendment “strikes an appropriate balance.” He said he was concerned the courts have not been consistent in recognizing which religious institutions should enjoy the religious exemptions that currently exist in the Civil Rights Act.

Harkin spoke in opposition to Toomey’s amendment, saying that changing the existing language of the Civil Rights Act will call into question language that employers are already familiar with and know how to comply with. He said the Toomey amendment “officially affiliated with a particular religion” to discriminate.

“This is a new term that is undefined in the text of the amendment and could lead to thousands of pro-profit businesses being allowed to discriminate,” said Harkin. He said an employer might be considered “affiliated” simply by receiving a newsletter from a religious group. “It threatens to gut the fundamental purpose of ENDA,” said Harkin.

Baldwin, the Senate’s only openly gay member, said the current religious exemption in ENDA is a “very carefully negotiated bipartisan” exemption. She urged the Senate to reject Toomey’s amendment.

The Senate did so, by a vote of 43-55.

The Senate then voted 64-34 to approve a procedural motion to close debate on ENDA. (All roll call votes are available on the Senate website approximately one hour after they are recorded.)

ENDA supporters were clearly hoping for a robust vote in support of the underlying bill and were heartened that not one senator, over the course of four days of allotted debate time, spoke in opposition.

Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) did express concern about the addition of language to protect people on the basis of gender identity. Flake indicated he had prepared an amendment that did not make it to the floor, but suggested that his concerns were addressed.

“When I voted for ENDA in the House in 2007, it did not contain the provisions with regard to gender identity,” said Flake. “Those added provisions have concerned me in terms of potential costs of litigation or compliance. I still have concerns, and I hope that as we work through the process and this bill moves onto the House that we can find ways to make sure that employers can implement these provisions in a way that is reasonable and proper.”

Thanking Baldwin for working with his office on “these issues,” Flake said, “I have a better appreciation for what needs to be done and what we can do with this legislation as it moves through the process.”

Baldwin, speaking at the press conference after the first two votes were taken, said “For folks, like myself, in the LGBT community, the opportunity to be judged in the workplace by your skills and qualities, your loyalty, your work ethic, is an important pronouncement for this nation.”

She talked also about the “symbolic impact” of the vote.

“When we something is wrong and it shouldn’t be done,” said Baldwin, “that sends a powerful message to prevent discrimination in the first place.”

“This is a really tremendous milestone,” said Baldwin, “a day I will never forget in my service in the Senate.”

– Reported by Lisa Keen

— Cynthia Laird, @ 12:58 pm PST
Filed under: News,Politics


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