With the first new liquor license issued by the city in about 80 years, “Auntie” April Spears’ new bar and restaurant, Cafe Envy, opened today at 1701 Yosemite Street (just off Third in the old Monte Carlo space). Boasting beer, wine, and cocktails, plus food from chef Spears — whose chicken and waffles at nearby Auntie April’s are among the city’s best — the new business would be the envy of any neighborhood. But for Spears, of course Cafe Envy had to be in the Bayview.
“My parents’ first home was here in Bayview.... I learned how to ride my bike up and down Third Street,” the chef recalled at a ribbon cutting ceremony today. As San Francisco’s African American community has dwindled amid rising rents and costs, Spears has helped push back against the forces of gentrification.
“Preserving the legacy of African American businesses is really important to me in the community here,” she said. Her first restaurant opened 12 years ago, and It’s been a hit ever since. Now, with a second business, this Auntie has established herself as an elder in the tight-knight local Bayview business community.
That group was gathered at the ribbon cutting ceremony, with Mayor London Breed and District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen — a middle school classmate of Spears’ — also in attendance. In remarks, they recalled trips to the Monte Carlo club, whose space Cafe Envy now occupies, and shared their enthusiasm for Auntie April’s food.
“That liveliness and vibrancy that the Baview was known to have, it’s coming back, with a new crop of leaders, a new crop of businesses,” said Cohen, who is nearing the end of her second term as the district’s Supervisor.
To help fuel that vibrancy, politicians passed a law to issue new liquor licenses to businesses in outer lying SF neighborhoods — the new type 87 licenses, of which Cafe Envy is a proud owner. With a fixed number of liquor licenses in San Francisco, their cost has grown prohibitive to many small business owners: On the second-hand market, they fetch $250,000 or more.
By Contrast, Spears got her type 87 for just $15,000 from the city — a relative steal. More neighbors, like nearby Mexican restaurant Tato (from the owner of All Good Pizza), the Dark Horse Inn, and Sunset Cantina, are getting in on the type 87 action. Eventually, the city will issue a total of 30 type 87 licenses.
To complement her bar, Spears will serve food like 1⁄2 pound burgers, smoked chicken wings, and more classic bar snacks. There’s no fried chicken here, but a nightly special will rotate, and lemon roasted chicken with seasonal vegetables is always available, as are sliders, shrimp and crab louie, salads, soups, and health-focused options like zucchini noodles. Spears’ partner at Cafe Envy is Meaghan Mitchell, a community member and local journalist.
“Ultimately, we want this business to be a success, and providing investments like this provide the opportunity for these businesses to grow and thrive,” Mayor Breed said in her remarks.
“It takes incredible will, a lot of patience, strong leadership, and of course it takes good food — and chef Spears has stepped up to the plate.”
A liquor license and lots of support from the community don’t hurt, either.