vegansaurus!

09/22/2010

Wait what? Ike’s Place is already back in SF?  »

It seems like only just yesterday that I was walking down 16th, wondering what THE HELL I was going to get for lunch today now that the local sandwich-hating Brownshirts have run Ike’s out of town. And if it seems like it was yesterday, it’s because it was. Literally yesterday.

So this morning (and by morning I mean noon, and waking up at noon doesn’t mean you’re lazy, it just means you work all night, so don’t judge) I woke up to news that Ike’s found a new temporary home, on Market Street in the Castro, inside Lime, as if the invisible hand of the free market teamed up with The Secret to give me exactly what I wanted for lunch (read: breakfast) today. There’s no Ike’s signage at the moment, and they’re taking phone orders only, but there’s also no line so sandwiches are coming out in 10 to 20 minutes. Get on that before everyone finds out. (And what I am doing blogging this? Part of the problem, right here.)

Ike is expecting to stay as Lime’s roommate for at least three months. He also said that there’s a second location in the works (no details yet) and that SF can and will support two locations. Truth. Also in the works: online ordering, iPhone and Android apps, and improved in-person ordering to cut down the wait times.

Everyone wins! Except for Ike’s old neighbors, who have to live out the remainder of their lives hating city life yet hating themselves too much to move. They don’t win. Still, part of me wishes I could cheer them up somehow. I was going to send flowers with a “Hey, let’s be friends” note, but now I’m thinking sexy fireman kissogram?? I don’t know, etiquette is exhausting.

09/13/2010

BREAKING: Ike’s Place is staying open after all!  »

Ha ha, just kidding. They’re really closing this time. I’m holding my last ever Vegan Brutus on glorious Dutch crunch from Ike’s Place—last ever, that is, until they inevitably (hopefully?) reopen. In the meantime, put your phone on speaker because even the wait to get past a busy signal is out of control.

And in a way, Ike’s Place really is staying open after all. In our hearts? Well, maybe there too (I’m sentimental like that), but I meant in Stanford. Their new location just opened last week, and according to Ike it’s already exploding, with an hour wait on the first day. So call ahead before your next sandwich road trip.

I’m sure some of you are still scratching your heads wondering why we’ve been getting all worked up and misty-eyed over a sandwich shop that also serves meat. For me, it’s about 32 percent selfish. Ike’s Place was my neighborhood sandwich shop, sometimes acting as my own surrogate kitchen for weeks at a stretch. Ike’s also gives a shit about what vegans want to eat, showing a level of commitment to us and to keeping with the times that almost no other restaurant in San Francisco has shown. Even our city’s “flagship” vegan restaurant (yes, I’m looking at you, Herbivore) keeps the same menu year after year, while Ike keeps buying new products that vegans are genuinely excited about. It was an omnivorous sandwich shop that was simultaneously more vegan than half the vegan restaurants in this city combined.

I love San Francisco, but Ike’s eviction is a symbolic victory for everything broken in this city: unneighborly neighbors who take up space over people who actually contribute to the community; blighted storefronts over a vibrant local economy; bureaucracy over small, independent business. Opening a new eating establishment in San Francisco is already prohibitively difficult; the message you get from City Hall, neighbors, landlords, and large chains is “you’re not wanted here, don’t bother.” And that’s all before adding the extra layer of “vegan” (see also: “weird,” “niche”) into the mix.

Yes, there’s nothing more played out than a “people like X are ruining San Francisco for people like Y” rant piece. But veganism in this city will succeed or fail based on whether or not new restaurants, bakeries, cafes, etc. can get some basic support, instead of being treated like a boil to be squeezed out. I’m not saying, let’s go Ayn Rand and deregulate everything. That’s insane—shit needs to be clean and safe; employees need to get paid a living wage. But come on; San Francisco has more skeezy massage parlors than vegan restaurants. It really shouldn’t be this hard to sell a sandwich.

P.S. What are you doing tonight? Probably nothing, so join Ike and everyone else as they crowd 16th and Sanchez with music and insanity for a farewell street party before closing tonight for real. PEACE OUT, neighbors.

08/02/2010

06/28/2010

06/17/2010

Here’s the latest on the Ike’s Place eviction drama: the landlord is going nuclear, according to the Bay Citizen, and planning to evict Daimaru Sushi, the neighboring restaurant since 1998, as a means of forcing out Ike. As it turns out, Ike is subleasing space from Daimaru, and the landlord is claiming that any permit violation by Ike is a violation of Daimaru’s lease.
As we reported already, Ike was ordered by his landlord to halt construction on a ventilation hood that would have cured any permit issues. So, the permit complaint has only ever been a pretense for eviction.
I attempted to interview Jerry Chau, the owner of Daimaru Sushi, but I discovered that he lives in Washington state, having left San Francisco years ago, and only visits the restaurant once every few months. No phone calls or emails were returned. Given that he’s disengaged from the community, my guess is that Jerry Chau would rather wash his hands of the whole mess and will probably walk away.
As a legal strategy, the landlord seems to have found a good one: pursue legal action against everyone who enables Ike in any possible way, and drive them far away from 16th and Sanchez Streets. Scorch the earth, and salt what remains. We’ll find out soon if the courts agree.

Here’s the latest on the Ike’s Place eviction drama: the landlord is going nuclear, according to the Bay Citizen, and planning to evict Daimaru Sushi, the neighboring restaurant since 1998, as a means of forcing out Ike. As it turns out, Ike is subleasing space from Daimaru, and the landlord is claiming that any permit violation by Ike is a violation of Daimaru’s lease.

As we reported already, Ike was ordered by his landlord to halt construction on a ventilation hood that would have cured any permit issues. So, the permit complaint has only ever been a pretense for eviction.

I attempted to interview Jerry Chau, the owner of Daimaru Sushi, but I discovered that he lives in Washington state, having left San Francisco years ago, and only visits the restaurant once every few months. No phone calls or emails were returned. Given that he’s disengaged from the community, my guess is that Jerry Chau would rather wash his hands of the whole mess and will probably walk away.

As a legal strategy, the landlord seems to have found a good one: pursue legal action against everyone who enables Ike in any possible way, and drive them far away from 16th and Sanchez Streets. Scorch the earth, and salt what remains. We’ll find out soon if the courts agree.

05/21/2010

Ike’s neighbors want $1 million from him to stay in business  »

You read that right. According to the New York Times' Bay Area blog, Ike's neighbors have laid out their demands, and they're ridiculous, bordering on extortion. Doubting that any demands could be that ridiculous, I went down to Ike's Place and talked to him in more detail. So here are the facts, according to Ike.

Ike’s neighbor dispute is between Ike and the two couples living in the two apartments above him. The two couples are renters, sharing a landlord with Ike. The neighbors on either side are either supportive or neutral, and many are his regular customers.

There are three separate legal actions taking place: the eviction, a small claims case with one couple, and the settlement demands discussed in the Times blog post. We’ll call the two couples A (small claims case couple) and B (million-dollar-demand couple).

In the small claims case, Ike had engaged in settlement discussions, but A stopped responding. The court date is July 1, and damages in small claims are limited to $7,500. If Ike were to lose the case, A could still open another case outside of small claims for additional damages.

The “$1 million” demand is one of four possible settlement options presented to Ike by couple B:

  • Ike must “drastically” adjust hours and business practices, as defined by couple B. Ike must sign over to B the backyard and garage that he leases from the landlord. In addition, Ike must pay $250,000 to couple B.
  • Ike stays, changes nothing, and pays $800,000 to couple B.
  • Ike stays and pays nothing, and couple B sues Ike in court.
  • Ike leaves and pays $200,000 to couple B.

Remember, these aren’t the landlord’s demands. If the landlord successfully evicts Ike, Ike would still have to either pay $200,000 or face a lawsuit, in addition to his legal fees from the eviction—a tall order for a business that only broke even in December.

Ike plans to fight the eviction in court (no court date has been set at this time) realizing that the alternative would mean immediately laying off his staff. The grounds for the eviction? “Nuisance.” But according to Ike, he’s been inspected and visited by various city departments over 40 times, including the health department, the building department, and the San Francisco Police Department. He has never received a single citation—not even on the air quality inspections.

The permit complaint is about air quality. As a remedy, Ike installed a ventilation hood over his kitchen area in January, which was fully permitted by the city. However, the neighbor complained to the landlord before the final inspection, and the landlord ordered Ike to halt all construction on the hood. As we spoke, the hood was installed and turned off.

In other words, the legal grounds for the eviction are nothing more than a pretense for evicting Ike. If they really cared about the air quality and permit issue, they wouldn’t have stopped Ike from finishing construction on the hood.

An interesting twist to the story? Who-Wants-to-Be-a-Millionaire couple B moved into their apartment 19 years ago, at which time Ike’s was a noisy bar, where loud music would rattle through the house, sometimes as late as 3 a.m. The noisy bar is why their rent is so cheap, and probably explains why they’re so reluctant to give up 19 years of rent control. But I don’t know what explains the $800,000 demand. Leverage? Greed? Who knows. All I know is that $800k would get you a pretty nice place in quiet Walnut Creek. City living isn’t for everyone, after all.

05/14/2010

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