This story has been edited throughout following its publication, as additional details have emerged.
As if the pandemic and wildfires weren’t upsetting enough, SF diners should brace themselves for another steaming cafeteria tray of unsettling news. Someone has vandalized the iconic sign at Tommy’s Joynt, the local legend and hofbrau, setting off rumors that the restaurant won’t reopen when the pandemic ends.
The tagging news broke on Twitter Tuesday, when a fan posted a photo of the defaced sign.
Whoever did this over the Tommy’s Joynt sign is TOY ! Respect our Frisco institutions pic.twitter.com/mS01sJ4XtF— OKDEN IN FRISCO (@TenderloinDad) September 1, 2020
The photo prompted a slew of outrage and support for the dearly beloved San Francisco restaurant. “The disrespect!” screamed more than one fan, some in all caps. “Absolute trash of a human being,” added another, in a sentiment echoed by many more.
Tommy’s Joynt, of course, is the hofbrau or boozy cafeteria on Van Ness, that slings barbecue brisket, meatball sandwiches, and oversized turkey legs. A fixture since 1947, it’s known for a wild exterior and wonderful decor, with galloping buffalo, neon lights, and flags flying. It has a longstanding position of honor as one of the most affordable and best late-night scenes in the city. Anthony Bourdain, Metallica, and locals have all loved it madly.
Tommy’s Joynt changed owners in 2016, and the keys are now held by Chris Henry, an SF native who also owns Fisherman’s Grotto. Like other restaurants and businesses on Van Ness, it has been socked in by ongoing construction, adding another obstacle on top of all the challenges restaurants have faced during the pandemic.
The graffiti incident kicked off a round of reports that the restaurant is closed for good, news that Eater SF has not been able to confirm.
Damn Tommy's Joynt in SF closed down? What a run.— Ray Almeda (@rayalmeda) September 2, 2020
Tommy’s Joynt is closed!!!!— (((BrokeAssStuart))) (@BrokeAssStuart) September 2, 2020
It seems this year continues to find ways to get worse.https://t.co/2BdbMK6jH7
Like Broke-Ass Stuart, who wrote today that “It Looks Like Tommy’s Joynt is Permanently Closed,” Eater SF has tried all three numbers listed for the restaurant on its website. The main line has been disconnected, while the other two rang unanswered. However, the restaurant’s website still says it’s open during shelter in place, but a March 22 Instagram post says it will reopen only after the shutdown has ended.. On Yelp, the business hours indicate it’s open, but Yelpers have reported it permanently closed. Its Google listing says the same thing. Eater SF has reached out to the restaurant, and has yet to receive a response.
SF officials who might have insights into the legacy business have not responded to Eater SF’s requests for information, including Supervisor Dean Preston (Tommy’s sits in his District 5) and San Francisco’s office for economic and workforce development.
After this article was published, Broke-Ass Stuart penned a second piece, reporting that Henry “just emailed me saying ‘We’re not permanently closed! We’re temporarily shut down due to covid and mandatory closure from government.” Henry also emailed Hoodline, writing, “This is fake news being spread. Not true,” but he declined to confirm “when Tommy’s might reopen, or its plan to address the graffiti.”
Meanwhile, other sources insist that the restaurant is closed for good. Other news orgs, like KPIX, noted that the restaurant’s long-dormant Facebook page was revived to post this message: “There’s a lot of buzz going around, but we are NOT closing. We will continue staying open with Uber Eats delivery.” However, KPIX notes, “the posted link to Uber Eats still shows ordering from Tommy’s to be unavailable,” and the restaurant’s Facebook message has since been edited (at least, as of publication time): “There’s a lot of buzz going around, but we are NOT closing. We are opening back up very soon!”
But other than that reedited Facebook message and brief notes to Broke-Ass Stuart and Hoodline, official comment has been hard to come by. According to SF Chronicle food critic Soleil Ho, she, too, has been unable to get a direct response from Henry, despite Herculean attempts to track him down. Here’s hoping the restaurant’s elliptical communication is because they’re busy preparing to reopen, and not a sign that bad news has just been postponed, instead of corrected.
Know something about the fate of Tommy’s? Drop us a line.