The fate of Outer Richmond Moroccan stronghold Aziza appears to be with the city, according to its chef-owner Mourad Lahlou. The restaurant, which “temporarily” closed its doors last year for some “long overdue” updates, originally planned to reopen in August of last year. But today it remains closed, the website domain name has expired, and fans are wondering if they’ll ever get to dig into that unforgettable duck basteeya again.
According to Lahlou, “Once we were closed past 60 days, the restaurant was seen as an entirely new business in the city’s eyes. They are asking for all kinds of upgrades.” Among them: a new fire wall and evening out the floors so that they’re all on the same level for ADA compliance.
That last requirement might be debilitating. “Contractors have given me estimates and it’s cheaper to demolish the whole building than to level off the floors in the existing structure,” said Lahlou. Estimated cost for demolition is $3 million — a bill that Lahlou says he can’t take on “if he ever wants to pay investors back.”
Why not try Aziza at a different location? It’s a possibility, but the current lease has another 19 years on it. And there is, of course, the sentimental value of the space. Lahlou would like to stay put if possible.
As things stand today, he’s working with a new contractor and a lawyer who are attempting to get an easement from the city. The building that houses Aziza is “on the cusp of historical status,” according to Lahlou. So there could be some hope of protection on those grounds. In the meantime, Lahlou is in restaurant purgatory: still paying rent and PG&E at the shuttered space as things get sorted out.
If the easement can’t happen, Lahlou will likely look for another home for his first baby. “There’s no fucking way I’m not bringing Aziza back,” he assures Eater. The hope is that things get sorted out in the next month or so. Stay tuned for updates.