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Chez Panisse Sues Insurance Company Over COVID-19 Coverage

Also: East Bay restaurant owner defends the defacement of a Black Lives Matter mural, and more news to start your day

The Chez Panisse sign
Chez Panisse is suing its insurance company after its pandemic-related business interruption claim was denied
Bill Addison

Alice Waters has joined the chorus of restaurateurs fed up with their insurance companies

Chez Panisse, the much-lauded Berkeley restaurant founded by food icon Alice Waters, has joined prominent local spots like John’s Grill and the French Laundry in the movement to sue insurance companies that won’t honor business interruption claims filed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a press release sent Tuesday evening, Waters’ attorneys say that the suit (which was filed Tuesday) was her last resort after “AMCO Insurance Company wrongfully denied coverage for losses resulting from government-mandated public health shutdowns related to COVID-19.”

“Chez Panisse spent years paying hefty premiums for business interruption insurance,” Waters is quoted as saying. “AMCO has an obligation to help provide economic relief to my team and restore the wide-ranging supply chain of small farms and businesses that Chez Panisse relies on to provide fresh and local cuisine.”

The issue of these claim denials began almost as soon as the shutdown did, with restaurants across the country suing insurers that refused to pay out business interruption policies. Thomas Keller sued Hartford Fire Insurance Co. on behalf of his Yountville spots, French Laundry and Bouchon Bistro, over the matter in late March, but despite oft-noted access to President Trump (who was “was very open and attentive” when told by Keller, Georges Vongerichten, Daniel Boulud, and Wolfgang Puck about the insurance issue), the problem persists. In April, 112-year-old downtown SF spot John’s Grill filed a claim similar to Keller’s. (Also in April, San Francisco officials proposed a resolution intended to pressure the insurance industry into honoring those claims.)

In a statement sent to the SF Chronicle, a spokesperson for Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company (of which AMCO is a subsidiary) says that “we are committed to doing all we can within the coverage our members have purchased” but that “business interruption coverage due to a virus outbreak has been excluded from standard policies issued to business owners across the insurance industry for quite some time. The risk for such an event is so vast, including it in standard coverage would make such coverage unaffordable or even unavailable.”

And in other news...

  • An anonymous server at Carmel Valley restaurant Lucia shielded a family from a racist attack this past weekend. A man since identified as Michael Lofthouse, the co-founder of SF startup Solid8, was caught on video swearing at his fellow diners in a tirade laced with racial slurs. In the video, a server at the restaurant (which is inside Bernardus Lodge and Spa) kicked Lofthouse out as he ranted, saying “Get out, you are not allowed here. You do not talk to our guests like that. They are valued guests. Get out!” Lofthouse has since apologized, saying “this was clearly a moment where I lost control,” but the target of his initial remarks say they doubt his sincerity. [ABC 7]
  • Rocco Biale, the owner of 21-year-old Rocco’s Ristorante Pizzeria, is also apologizing this week. He tweeting a defense of Nicole Anderson and David Nelson, Martinez residents who face hate crime charges after defacing a Black Lives Matter mural. Biale claimed the couple was expressing “their First Amendment rights,” and called out “rioters and protestors” for removing statues of slave owners and other problematic figures. [East Bay Times]
  • World Famous Hotboys, the Nashville-style fried chicken spot that opened in Uptown Oakland late last year, is tentatively plotting an expansion to Sacramento. [SF Business Times]
  • Laid off in the pandemic, Cala sous chef Ely Flores has launched Red Rooster Taco Truck, which doles out Mexican street food and “the typical taco truck food” from a parking spot near the Richmond Target. [Richmond Standard]
  • Southwest Berkeley’s once-bustling Viks Chaat and Market has been open since 1989, but its owners say that the coronavirus crisis is the biggest challenge it’s faced yet. [Daily Californian]
  • After a break-in, supporters of the Fillmore’s 28-year-old Miyako Old Fashion Ice Cream raised nearly $20,000 to help 81-year-old proprietor Thomas Bennett stay in business. [SF Gate]
  • As the coronavirus crisis continues, Bay Area bartenders say they’re focusing on self-care and finding other ways to make money. [SF Chronicle]
  • Finally, three pivots to note:
  1. Berkeley bottle shop Crafts & Grapes will reopen as People’s Local Market, after its owners say that they grew concerned at rising alcohol sales during the pandemic. [Berkeleyside]
  2. The owners of Pasta Pop-Up, a confoundingly named two-year-old North Beach restaurant, have turned the spot into California Fish Market Restaurant, serving a menu of seafood, pasta, and fish to go. [Tablehopper]
  3. Church Street rotisserie chicken spot Due Drop In has rebranded as Pizza Due, serving pies like the “baconato” (bacon, roasted potatoes, rosemary, mozzarella and béchamel). [Hoodline]

Viks Chaat

2390 Fourth Street, , CA 94710 (510) 644-4432 Visit Website

World Famous HotBoys

1601 San Pablo Avenue, , CA 94612 Visit Website


149 Fell St, San Francisco, CA 94102

Chez Panisse

1517 Shattuck Avenue, , CA 94709 (510) 548-5525 Visit Website