Elda, that cool new(ish) mezcal bar in the Mission, gave its fans a scare last fall. The bar closed temporarily in November, then moved furniture and equipment out in December, sparking permanent closure rumors. A regular leaked to Mission Local that there was an issue with the landlords, and the owners at Elda declined to answer specific questions at that time. But now, fans of the mezcal and rum cocktails and pepita salsa can breathe a sigh of relief. The owners finally confirmed for Eater SF that they’re not closing, but they are moving. The new location is still TBD, but they’re currently on the hunt for a new space for “Elda 2.0,” and hoping to bounce back in the next few months.
Elda originally opened in summer of 2019, and quickly became one of the hottest new cocktail bars in the Mission. The opening team was Eric Ochoa (ABV, Bar Agricole, Trou Normand), Alvaro Rojas (True Laurel, El Techo), and Jay De Natale, two talented local bartenders and an entrepreneur. Elda had the distinction of being a Latino-owned bar, but one that defied stereotypes of margaritas and tacos. It served creative cocktails featuring mezcal, tequila, and rum, alongside a menu of Jamaican beef patties, fried chicken sandwiches on milk bread, and sikil p’ak (pepita salsa), all in a generous space filled with light and splashes of color. Immediately, it was a hit with the neighborhood, and at home in the Mission.
“Out of the gate we were doing really well,” says De Natale. “ … Eric had won a Bar Star [from the SF Chronicle]. We had just been awarded a Top 10 from the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation, which is a cool honor. Business was good. We had just written our first check back to investors, with an ecstatic letter, saying we were doing well, and ahead of schedule.”
When the pandemic hit, Elda had only been open for nine months. The bar kept riding on their strong cocktail program and community support, and tried all of the pandemic pivots, with creativity and care: They say they laid off most of the staff, dropping down to a skeleton crew of five people. They did bottled cocktails, twisting off the favorite Desert Grifter, Vampiro, and Pink Flamingo cocktails in sized-down bottles to go, ran their own delivery service, and launched virtual events. They built a parklet and boarded up the windows, then painted them over with colorful murals. They also hosted impressive run of pop-ups, partnering with stars like Mister Jiu’s, longtime favorites like Miss Ollie’s curry goat, and breakout hits like Astranda’s coffee-frosted cinnamon rolls.
But despite all those efforts, and while Ochoa and De Natale were applying for loans, grants, and crowdfunding, they could not come to a reasonable agreement with their landlord. The regular who spoke with Mission Local said the landlord was demanding $14,000 a month. De Natale now adds that the space was also due for a seismic retrofit, which could have required yet another temporary closure. “We never had a good relationship with our landlord … It was never a partnership, it never felt like we had stable footing,” De Natale says. “They were never willing to come to an agreement, and try to figure out a solution …. Our best bet was a start from scratch, with Elda 2.0. And that required us to find a new location.”
He says that Elda 2.0 will stay true to the original; the menu may be streamlined to start, but it will be the same creative mezcal and rum cocktails that fans have grown to love. It will be mostly the same team, with Ochoa and De Natale for sure, although third player Alvaro Rojas has a separate new project in the works (Buddy, coming to the old Californios space), so his specific plans remain to be seen. They are currently looking for a space, which may be slightly smaller, and ideally has a combo of indoor and outdoor seating. The one change that might be hard for regulars to swallow is that Elda’s new spot might not necessarily be in the Mission — Ochoa and De Natale say that as much as they love their original neighborhood, they are open to exploring locations across the city.
“It was a rough decision, an emotional decision, after all of the effort, work, and heart we put into the space,” says De Natale. “We were friends with all of the residents in the building. We knew everyone. But we had to be scrappy and adapt, and we had to set that aside, and do what’s best for the future.” And after watching so many businesses fold throughout the pandemic, he says they do feel fortunate. “We can take our successful concept and reputation and go and find a new location …. There are a lot of people out there in worse positions …. We’re grateful to have the opportunity to open and find a new place.” Stay tuned for updates on the next iteration of Elda.