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Apparently, Boba Guys Workers Aren’t Even Allowed to Talk About Unions

Plus, Leopold’s on Polk Street looks to roll back into Russian Hill

Boba Guys Boba Guys
Paolo Bicchieri is a reporter at Eater SF writing about Bay Area restaurant and bar trends, coffee and cafes, and pop-ups.

In summer 2020, allegations of racial discrimination and sexual harassment came to light surrounding San Francisco-born tea drink company Boba Guys. At the time, now-defunct alt-weekly SF Weekly spoke to 10 former employees about issues of anti-Blackness and repeated microaggressions toward Black workers. Now, according to a Twitter thread posted on October 19 by writer and activist Sasha Perigo, the company is union-busting at its Mission District location. The San Francisco Chronicle spoke to current and former employees who allege the company retaliated against them for sharing information about unionizing, going so far as to call the police on workers when they protested the company’s actions.

The problems began about two weeks ago, according to staff, when the company told Mission District workers the store would reduce hours due to financial struggles. Things escalated when Madeline Urso, a former shift lead, was fired for an inappropriate comment made about owner Andrew Chau — one day after posting information about labor organizing in the team Slack. Other workers told the Chronicle they’ve been suspended without pay and been asked to not enter Boba Guy locations. Since Perigo’s tweet began gaining media attention, the company’s Twitter account has gone private. “We are aware of the concerns expressed by some of our San Francisco-based retail team members, and we respect the rights of employees to organize or engage in collective bargaining,” co-founders Chau and Bin Chen wrote in an email to the Chronicle.

Noe Valley bar hopes to keep its parklet, despite city ruling

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) deemed Valley Tavern’s parklet out of ordinance, citing the yellow parking zone outside the bar. But the business’ staff has now launched a petition to ask the city to change its mind. In just two days, it’s gained more than 500 signatures.

Russian Hill restaurant may be about to reopen

The long-quiet storefront of Leopold’s on Polk Street has a beer and wine license pending review by the Alcoholic Beverage Control hanging in the window; chef Michael Lamina told SFGATE he’s trying to bring the business back. The Austrian gasthaus-style restaurant was ultra-popular, often packed to the gills with patrons before closing during the pandemic. Former owner Albert Klaus said in 2021 that negotiations were ongoing with the landlord, but his license request was denied — only for Lamina’s to appear online four months later.

East Bay Afro-Brazillian restaurant owner seeks new lease

The Damel closed in Oakland in early October, but chef Oumar Diouf is apparently not ready to quit dishing up empanadas just yet. The Mercury News reports Diouf is in talks to take over leases in neighborhoods including Fruitvale and Uptown Oakland for a business focusing on a smaller menu with stronger catering capabilities.

San Francisco cheese festival returns to the Bay

The seventh annual SF Cheese Fest is hitting the Richmond District on October 22 at 1325 Canal Boulevard. Dozens of cheesemongers and vendors are on-site for sampling and mingling while live jazz from Bryan Girard Jazz plays in the background. Tickets start at $98 and the event runs from 6 to 9 p.m.

Boba Guys

836 Divisadero Street, , CA 94117 (415) 967-2622 Visit Website

The Damel

1312 Broadway, , CA 94612 (510) 817-4939 Visit Website

Valley Tavern

4054 24th Street, , CA 94114 (415) 285-0674 Visit Website