After 18 years in Hayes Valley, Arlequin Cafe is now closed, giving neighborhood regulars little chance to say goodbye. The adjacent wine shop, Arlequin Wine Merchant, will continue to operate per usual, as will its sibling Absinthe.
Once under the shadow of the freeway, Hayes Valley is now home to sleek condo buildings, upscale bistros, and shipping containers filled with nitrogen-churned ice cream. Arlequin, with its grab-n-go items and simple fare like soups, salads, and sandwiches, was an approachable option for the neighborhood. But according to owner Bill Russell-Shapiro, even the casual, counter-service model upon which the cafe was founded is no long viable in the current landscape, leaving employers unable to pay staff the necessary wages to live in San Francisco.
Though minimum wage will rise from $15 per hour to $15.59 on July 1, 2019, many restaurants pay more to compete for hard-won staff, many of whom aren’t able to live in the city in which they work.
Russell-Shapiro plans to open a new concept in the space, preserving access to one of the city’s most lovely backyard garden spaces. In the meantime, some staff who’ve lost jobs will be paid severance, while others will find positions elsewhere within the restaurant group.
Stay tuned for more on what’s ahead for Arlequin Cafe and the Absinthe Group.