Popular Nob Hill coffee shop, Chameleon Café, will shut its doors for good on May 30. Open since 2004, the small business at the border of Russian Hill and Nob Hill has long filled the need for a neighborhood gathering place in what is a mostly residential area, serving coffee and light fare, and hosting evening happy hours with beer and wine.
The SF Examiner reports that when owner Melanie Hsu's lease expired in 2013 the agreement changed to a month-to-month basis. Then, in April, Hsu was served an eviction notice by the building's landlord, Marsha Low of the Jimmie G. Low trust. According to Low's lawyer, Evan Chan, the eviction is not fueled by the opportunity for higher rent but that "the ownership dislikes the way [she] runs the business."
The business has become a gathering place for neighborhood residents of all kinds, including popular family happy hours that provided a much-needed respite for parents and a place where kids could get to know their neighbors. In a letter Hsu received from Low in April, complaints included children drawing on the sidewalk with "slippery" chalk, as well as the occasional hosting of a food truck outside the café. The issue is complicated, given the current escalation of SF rents and complicated private-property rights in San Francisco. However Hsu felt she was left with no options when facing the eviction, noting that if the landlord doesn't like something, "she can just kick me to the curb."
Hsu said that in the end, she achieved the goal that she set when opening the business, which was "to build a community." No word yet on whether Hsu plans to relocate, or shutter the business for good.
A farewell party is planned for May 22 before the café is forced to vacate the space on May 30.