Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Hamburger Mary’s wins go-ahead for Castro location

A Hamburger Mary's will take over the long vacant Patio Cafe space in the Castro. Photo: Rick Gerharter

A Hamburger Mary’s will take over the long vacant Patio Cafe space in the Castro.
Photo: Rick Gerharter

Hamburger Mary’s will be returning to San Francisco, the city where the burger chain was launched in 1972.

While the original location shuttered in 2001, gay Castro bar owner Les Natali won approval this afternoon (Thursday, December 4) from the city’s planning commission to operate a Hamburger Mary’s in the long vacant Patio Cafe on the 500 block of Castro Street.

The reopening of a restaurant at 531 Castro Street will bring to an end a 12-year saga that saw the storefront sit vacant as Natali battled city officials over a number of zoning issues over the years. Last summer the planning commission signed off on the last of the permits that Natali needed to open an eatery in the space.

But when he opted to team up with the owner’s of Hamburger Mary’s, considered formula retail under city rules, Natali at first fought planning officials over whether he needed a conditional use permit, arguing that the burger joint should not be considered chain retail.

After losing that fight, Natali then applied for the necessary permits, which the planning commission unanimously voted 6-0 to approve this afternoon. (One commissioner did not vote on the item because they were not present yet when the matter was first heard.)

“What will go back in there will have to draw traffic. If it does that, it will be fine,” said commissioner Michael Antonini.

Gay planning commissioner Dennis Richards, who lives nearby in the Duboce Triangle neighborhood, added, “I am excited to finally see something go in there.”

There was some opposition to seeing Hamburger Mary’s open, with Castro business owner Gary Weiss, who owns Ixia florist shop, the lone person to speak out against it at the hearing. He questioned if there was a need for another burger joint in the area as well as expressed concern at allowing a formula retailer into the neighborhood.

“We have Sliders, Orphan Andy’s, Super Duper, and The Cove. And I would venture to say the majority of the other restaurants offer burgers as well,” he said.

Natali, who attended the hearing, did not address the oversight panel and has not said how soon he will have the eatery open. His representative, John Kevlin of Reuben, Junius & Rose LLP, noted that “the project before you today will activate a long vacant space in the Castro District.”

According to a staff report about the project, the restaurant space is divided into three areas that will operate under different conditions.

The entrance area near the sidewalk features a bar and seating that will open at 6 a.m. and remain open throughout the day and night, closing at 2 a.m. seven days a week. A smaller dining area near the kitchen will be open during the same hours.

The outdoor patio seating and a second bar in the back of the space, where a retractable roof is located, will be open from 6 a.m. until midnight all week. Due to concerns about noise in the apartments nearby, Natali has agreed to close the roof each night by 9 p.m.

Two other outside seating areas not under the retractable roof will only be used between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Natali has also proposed having live entertainment at the restaurant, including DJ/VJ performances, emceed television-watching nights, bingo, karaoke and live drag performances. The live music will be restricted to the inside area of the restaurant, as stated in the staff report.

— Matthew S. Bajko, December 4, 2014 @ 6:01 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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