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

Hamburger Mary’s Castro location to soft open Sunday with limited menu

Screen Shot 2018-03-10 at 11.58.17 AMHaving sat vacant for nearly two decades, the former Patio restaurant space in the heart of the Castro is again serving diners as part of the Hamburger Mary’s restaurant chain.

After several nights of training for its waiters, bartenders, and kitchen staff with invited customers from the city’s gay district and LGBT community, the restaurant will quietly open its doors to the public Sunday night (March 11) with a limited dinner menu and seating only in the front bar area.

It will be the 20th Hamburger Mary’s location, according to the company’s website. The various restaurants across the country are operated by local franchise owners.

The Castro eatery’s famed covered patio space in the back – which was famous in the 1980s and 1990s for its weekend brunches and beefy wait staff – is not yet ready to be used. The restaurant expects to open it up within a month, at which time it will also expand its food offerings and expects to start hosting drag shows and other entertainment.

The opening marks a return for Hamburger Mary’s to San Francisco, the city where the burger chain was launched in 1972, since the former location in the South of Market neighborhood shuttered in 2001.

And it also marks the end of owner Les Natali’s 16-year effort to reopen the restaurant space at 531 Castro Street. As the Bay Area Reporter has previously reported, Natali had planned to reopen the Patio, which closed in 2002, in May 2012. But a routine health department inquiry related to his request for an occupancy permit led to a determination that his planning permits were not in order.

It would be the first of several permit problems Natali would have with city planning offiicals, leading to years of delays and a legal fight. In the midst of the zoning snafus Natali was hit with allegations of discriminatory business practices at his 18th Street gay bar Badlands. He refuted the charges and reached a mediated settlement with his accusers in 2006.

But the issue led to a complaint being filed against his permits for the Patio, which further delayed the remodel project. Eventually the city’s former zoning administrator ruled in his favor, and work on the space again commenced.

Starting in 2008, Natali began searching for a person or group to run the restaurant. Five years ago, with work on the space completed, he and fellow gay bar owner Larry Metzger of the Mix began planning the Patio’s re-opening ceremonies. Their efforts, however, were again hampered by permit issues.

In 2013 the zoning issues were resolved, and the following year the city’s planning commission signed off on the permits Natali needed to operate a Hamburger Mary’s in the space. Yet nothing happened until last year, when the San Francisco Entertainment Commission voted unanimously to approve a permit that cleared the way for Hamburger Mary’s to open and bring to the Castro drag shows and other entertainment.

Eight months later the restaurant is finally opening its doors.

“It is exciting, OMG!” said Metzger, who has no ownership stake in the restaurant, as he welcomed some of the first customers back into the space during a sneak preview Friday night held to help the new employees figure out their routines and work out any kinks before opening to the public.

Hamburger Mary’s will be open at 4 p.m. seven days a week and its bar will close at 2 a.m. Dinner service will end at 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and at 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

The Bay Area Reporter will have more on the future plans for the San Francisco Hamburger Mary’s location in Thursday’s (March 15) paper.


— Matthew S. Bajko, March 10, 2018 @ 1:49 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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