Bernal Star’s landlord is telling the restaurant how to run its business, after revenues dropped during the pandemic
Bernal Star, a six-year-old restaurant known for its dog-friendly back patio brunches and a kid-friendly menu of burgers and fries, has — like nearly every restaurant around — struggled to make ends meet during the pandemic. Luckily for them, their property management company, Citywide Property Management (CPM), worked with them, Hoodline reports, agreeing to cut rent in half (or even less) as the coronavirus crisis continued. It appears, however, that the landlord (who employs CPM) wasn’t completely on board with the deal, as he hit them with a letter demanding that they pay him an additional $24,867.50 within 30 days.
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This is the eviction notice that our landlord, MAHER MEMARZADEH, posted on our window. Our rent is over $10,000 /month and since April we have been paying a portion of that due to inability to pay... we have been in communication with the property management company regarding paying 1/2 rent - but now, our landlord wants us to pay him back!!! $24,000 by the end of the month. This is intimidating, absurd, cruel, and inappropriate. This is no way to treat small businesses during this crisis.
Bernal Star owners Vega Freeman-Brady and Giuseppe Manna say that the agreement with CPM involved a rent cut, not a deferral, so they were surprised to see a non-payment of rent letter affixed to their front door from SF courthouse regular Maher Memarzadeh, who owns Bernal Star’s 408-412 Cortland Avenue building.
Memarzadeh, who lives in Los Angeles, referred Hoodline to attorney Francisco Gutierrez, who says that his client ”intends to continue to assist Bernal Star on finding appropriate solutions” to make enough money to pay the same rent it paid prior to the pandemic.
Freeman-Brady says that assistance came in the form of a suggestion to cease making deliveries in-house. Instead, “Memarzadeh told her to sign up with additional third-party delivery apps like Grubhub and Doordash to increase revenue,” Hoodline reports.
This was a particularly bitter pill for Freeman-Brady to swallow: The Washington Post reported in May that she was “able to keep much of her staff employed because she doesn’t use delivery services.”
“You’re paying out 30 percent to these delivery services and your margins are 10 percent, so it doesn’t make sense,” Freeman-Brady told the Post. “We don’t want to raise prices. I’d rather pay my employees more and give them a living wage.”
Via Instagram, Bernal Star says Memarzadeh’s demands are “crazy, greedy and cruel,” but Freeman-Brady says she might have to sign up with the apps to appease him. Even so, she says “It’s totally unrealistic...there’s just no way we’re going to be able to pay him $25,000.”
And in other news...
- A new California law requires grocery stores to donate surplus to food banks, but it doesn’t go into effect until 2022. Struggling under the pandemic, food insecurity organizations are putting pressure on officials to move that timeline up. [KRON 4]
- Daly City’s 30-year-old Moonstar Buffet was notable for packed houses of self-serve diners feasting on an eclectic menu of sushi and Chinese barbecue. Now the restaurant is figuring out if it can pivot to a tableside service model similar to those at Las Vegas casino buffets. [SF Gate]
- The Lower Haight space recently vacated by Café du Soleil has a new tenant: Tarragon Café, a restaurant from Mario Jackson, a corporate caterer laid off in the pandemic, and his wife, Audrey. It should open next month with takeout offerings like soups, salad, and charcuterie. [Hoodline]
- Berkeley’s 34-year-old sandwich shop Cheese n’ Stuff just reopened after a months-long pandemic closure. “This is my baby. … I want to stay in business. I should be retired at my age, but I just want to be here,” owner Sam Juha says. [Daily Californian]
- At least four workers at a San Jose Trader Joe’s have tested positive for COVID-19, the result the company says, of “close contact” outside of work. [East Bay Times]
- Bay Area robotics firms are hustling to fill an unprecedented demand for food prep automatons. [KPIX]