Breaking: Patio could reopen this summer
by Matthew S. Bajko
More than a decade after it served its last meal, the long-shuttered Patio restaurant in the Castro could finally reopen this summer.
Owner Les Natali plans to submit paperwork with the city's Planning Department Friday, March 15 to receive the necessary permits needed to open the eatery at 531 Castro Street. His land use attorney, Andrew Junius of Reuben, Junius and Rose LLP, estimates it could take at least three months to navigate the approval process.
"I am hopeful we will be open soon," Natali told the Bay Area Reporter in an exclusive interview today (Monday, March 11). "I have been waiting a long time myself for us to get open."
He has the support of gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, who has been working with him over the last year to secure the needed city approvals.
"Getting the Patio reopened is a very high priority for me and the neighborhood," said Wiener. "It will be a very positive thing for the neighborhood."
Last May Natali expected to be celebrating the revival of the restaurant, a local favorite for its enclosed patio dining area with a retractable roof. He had lined up several charity events with local nonprofits, such as the Castro Country Club, and was working with a caterer on the opening celebrations.
But he hit a snafu when he filed for a license to operate from the health department, which shares oversight of the permitting process for food establishments. As a matter of due course, health officials checked with planning staff on the status of the Patio's building permits.
That inquiry led planning staff to determine that a sidewalk-fronting addition to the restaurant, where a small retail space had been, had not been properly approved and that Natali needed to seek a conditional use permit. Negotiations had been ongoing to try to resolve the matter without seeking a vote at the Planning Commission.
Those talks proved futile, said Natali, so he is now seeking a hearing before the commission in order to secure the permit and open the restaurant.
"My attorney said the city makes mistakes and we just have to bite the bullet," said Natali, who bought the Patio in 1989 and worked as a host there through 1999 when he bought the gay bar Badlands on 18th Street. "I liked the place. I was a customer there and I thought it would be a nice place to work at."
Scott Sanchez, the city's zoning administrator, told the B.A.R. that the department had notified Natali last March that he would need to seek a conditional use permit. But Natali's former attorney spent last summer "disputing that" determination, added Sanchez.
The B.A.R. will have more on the plans for the Patio in this Thursday's paper.