Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 12 / 22 March 2018

Castro Mexican eatery Zapata, landlord working on 1-year lease extension

Local favorite Zapata Mexican Grill has reached a tentative agreement with its landlord to remain open a year. (Courtesy Zapata's Facebook page)

Local favorite Zapata Mexican Grill has reached a tentative agreement with its landlord to remain open a year. (Courtesy Zapata’s Facebook page)

It is looking likely that Castro eatery Zapata Mexican Grill will receive a one-year reprieve from having to close its doors.

Located at 4150 18th Street at Collingwood, Zapata opened in the corner storefront in 1993 and is a favorite with local residents for its inexpensive, quick-service burritos, tacos, and other entrees.

It had announced that it would close next Friday, October 16.

But owner Jorge Perez and his landlord, Les Natali, have verbally agreed to a lease extension for the popular restaurant, allowing it to remain open until October 31, 2016.

In an email Wednesday morning, Natali wrote that “now it’s just¬†¬† a matter of the attorneys agreeing on the extension agreement.”

In a brief phone interview, Perez said, “We have agreed but haven’t signed papers yet. We are still waiting to see the actual document.”

But Perez noted that it still falls short of the five-year lease extension he had been seeking, meaning he has 12 months to find a new space in the city’s gay neighborhood to move into otherwise he may have to close the restaurant for good.

“We are happy that we have some more time to save some more capital and to find a new location,” said Perez. “It is not what we really wanted – we wanted a long-term lease – but he is not willing to do it.”

The tentative lease agreement follows the intervention of the Castro Merchants, the business association for the gayborhood. As the Bay Area Reporter reported last week, the likelihood of losing Zapata prompted the board of the merchants group to send Natali a letter last week imploring him to work “in an expedient manner to secure a mutually-beneficial long-term lease” for the “much loved local business …”

It also expressed its “grave concerns regarding recent and continuing issues with properties” Natali controls in the Castro.

Three storefronts owned by Natali are currently vacant, with the old Patio Cafe space, at 531 Castro, dark since 2002. A lawyer for Natali, in response to the Castro Merchants, stated in a letter shared with the B.A.R. that efforts continue to open a branch of the Hamburger Mary’s chain in the space.

The adjacent storefront at 541 Castro Street is for lease, and Natali expects it “will rent quickly,” according to the letter. As for the small space at 4144 18th Street, next door to Natali’s Toad Hall gay bar, signage on the windows say lease applications from pop-up tenants are being sought.

— Matthew S. Bajko, October 7, 2015 @ 12:47 pm PST
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