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

Philz gains backing to relocate its Castro location

Philz Coffee will be taking over this space on Castro Street where David Chiu had his Assembly race headquarters.

Philz Coffee will be taking over this space on Castro Street where David Chiu had his Assembly campaign headquarters.

Local java brewer Philz Coffee will relocate its 18th Street location into a space on the 500 block of Castro Street that supporters of the move hope will help to activate what has long been seen as a pedestrian dead zone in the city’s gayborhood.

Owner Phil Jaber won support from the city’s planning commission this afternoon (Thursday, December 4) for his relocation plans in the gayborhood. The 18th Street store was his second he opened in 2004, but the lease for the small space was up so the company opted to move into a larger space on the 500 block of Castro Street.

“Approval will allow Philz to remain in the Castro community it has served for years,” said Philz representative Jody Knight, with Reuben, Junius & Rose LLP.

Jaber argued that where he puts in his coffeehouses he increases business to that area of town.

“We conduct our business in the community where we become a community, like going to grandma’s house,” he said.

The storefront at 549 Castro Street had been home to a gay-owned shoe store and was most recently leased by Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) to serve as his campaign headquarters.

According to the planning staff report, Philz is restricted to having only 15 seats in the 3,634 square foot storefront. It is proposed to be open from 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

As noted in a story in today’s Bay Area Reporter, Philz’s relocation plans brought to the forefront a debate over what types of retail people would like to see in the Castro business district, as complaints have grown over the increasing number of coffeehouses and financial institutions moving into the area.

It faced some opposition from operators of nearby coffeehouses. The owners of Spikes on 19th Street spoke out against Philz during the hearing.

“This is a very saturated market. There are a lot of cafes and a lot of new cafes have come out in recent years,” said Austin Miller, a barrista at Spikes, which has been open since 1990 in a space that has been a coffeehouse since the 1970s.

Longtime Castro business owner and leader Patrick Batt, who co-owns Eureka Cafe on the 400 block of Castro Street, also opposed Philz because of its transforming a traditional retail space into what the city planning code calls a limited restaurant.

“I am opposed to the change of use not because it is Philz. Philz has been a success story; I think we can all agree with that,” Batt said during the hearing, stressing Philz could pursue a different space in the area. “I have an issue with the continued bleeding of retail spaces in the Castro NCD to both formula retail and limited restaurant.”

Gay planning commissioner Dennis Richards, who lives nearby in the Duboce Triangle, did question how many cafes are needed in the Castro.

“I am concerned about the proliferation of coffeeshops in the Castro,” he said, though he added that he would support Philz moving to the new site.

Other commissioners also expressed support for Philz’ relocation plan, and the oversight panel unanimously voted 7-0 in favor of the move.

— Matthew S. Bajko, December 4, 2014 @ 5:33 pm PST
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