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SF’s Newest Philz Coffee Location Reverses Position on Users Of Cash, Flip Phones

Also: Tartine workers vote on unionization, and more news to start your day

Philz’s “mobile only” store, which opened Wednesday at 425 Mission Street

SF-based chain Philz Coffee has opened a new store in the Salesforce Transit Center, but it said it would only serve customers that use its app — that is, until questions were raised regarding its compliance with city laws.

According to an email sent by Philz Coffee, a San Francisco-based chain that now boasts locations across California, Washington D.C., and Chicago, its newest SF store is “mobile-only.” That means that customers without smartphones, who wish to pay with cash, or who don’t want to download its app will have to seek their java elsewhere, it first appeared.

The 1000-square-foot spot at 425 Mission Street is “the first mobile-only cafe in San Francisco,” the SF Chronicle reported Thursday morning, writing then that it would require all patrons “to download the Philz app to order and pay for takeout-only drinks.” A look at the FAQ on the Philz site confirms the Chron’s reporting, and also notes that the app is also unable to take any orders that involve gift cards or promo codes.

The app also requires that users allow it to access their location, which Philz says that is necessary so users can “see accurate store and menu information.” Its app (which the Chron says was launched about two years ago) isn’t the first time Philz has made an effort to track patrons — privacy-minded folks might recall that in 2014, the chain made a stir when it was revealed that it was collecting information from customers’ Wi-Fi connected devices both inside and outside its locations, an issue that prompted enough outrage that the company dropped the practice.

It was initially unclear how the Salesforce Transit Center location is compliant with San Francisco’s law that requires all businesses accept cash, as according to a press release sent by Philz this week, diners without the app are out of luck: “Upon arrival, guests locate their barista’s name on a board – mirroring their order via the app – to identify where to pick up their customized ‘Cup of Love.’ Friendly team members will be on-site helping guests without the app to download and place an order.”

SF’s cash payment law was proposed by then-Supervisor Vallie Brown to prevent discrimination against low-income residents — for example, folks who might not be able to afford an app-supporting smartphone. It’s a law that was unanimously supported by the Board of Supes last May, and that went into effect last fall.

However, after Eater SF sent an email to email a Philz spokesperson on how the app-only store fits in with SF’s cash payment requirement, the Chron’s story was updated “to include a clarification that the new mobile-only Philz Coffee will still accept cash to comply with the law” and a Philz spokesperson said that, despite all previous announcement to the contrary, transactions are only “encouraged” to be made using the app, and that “the store has the necessary capabilities to honor cash payments should a customer not be able to use the app or request to pay in cash.” That means, it appears, that it’s not so mobile-only after all.

This report was updated at 3:45 p.m. with a response from a Philz spokesperson regarding the new store’s cash payment capabilities and to note changes to the SF Chronicle’s article on the topic.

And in other news...

  • Workers at Tartine’s San Francisco locations are voting Thursday on the decision to unionize, and its Berkeley staff will vote on Friday. Meanwhile, Tartine co-founder Chad Robertson is still sporting what appears to be anti-union garb (and has turned the comments off on his Instagram account). Pro-union staff say they’ll likely quit Tartine if the vote fails, and anti-union say they’ll quit if it passes, so diners can expect their morning buns to come with an extra serving of tension today. [SF Chronicle]
  • Food writer Grace Li sings the praises of the bulgogi sandwich at Joy’s Cafe, which for $9.95 provides “slices of hot marinated beef are wrapped tightly with toasted bread, mayo, onion, and cold lettuce and tomato slices.” [SF Weekly]
  • The Coachella and Stagecoach music fests have been postponed, but August’s Outside Lands food, comedy, and music fest is still on (as of publication time, at least). “Eager Beaver presale tickets” (which are priced between $349.50 and $785) for the show go on sale at 10 a.m. today, and though neither the food nor the music lineup has been announced, here’s what everyone was dining on last year. [FunCheap]
  • In an odd echo of San Francisco’s non-consensual delivery app scandal, a restaurant in LA says it was surprised to see itself advertised on GrubHub without its permission. Meanwhile, a law to ban that practice across California is moving forward. [LA Times]
  • San Francisco-based Yelp says in a blog post that over 1,300 businesses across its platform allegedly engaged in sketchy review behavior or otherwise merited a “consumer alert.” According to Yelp, 580 businesses sported “many positive reviews” that “appear to come from a single IP address in a manner that indicates a concerted effort to improve a business’s reputation on Yelp.” [Ad Week]
  • A doctors’ lobbying group filed a lawsuit in Sacramento County Superior Court saying that processed meats like “hot dogs, ham, sausages, corned beef and beef jerky” should be named as carcinogens as part of Proposition 65, a voter-approved law that since the mid-1980s has required California to “maintain and update a list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.” [Courthouse News Service]

Philz Coffee

549 Castro Street, , CA 94114 (415) 875-9656 Visit Website

Tartine Bakery

600 Guerrero Street, , CA 94110 (415) 487-2600 Visit Website