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People Keep Speculating This Iconic Bay Area Tiki Bar Is Closing. It’s Not.

Plus, a local “Shark Tank”-style contest names restaurant winners and more Bay Area food news

Trader Vic’s Emeryville/Facebook
Paolo Bicchieri is a reporter at Eater SF writing about Bay Area restaurant and bar trends, coffee and cafes, and pop-ups.

For the better part of a century, people have flocked to the East Bay’s location of Trader Vic’s, the international restaurant chain known for being the potential birthplace of the mai tai. The 87-year-old tiki bar remains vigilantly open on a little spit of land facing San Francisco from the East Bay — but fans can barely seem to keep one important fact straight: is the restaurant open or closed? Berkeleyside has covered this closure rumor mill, starting in 2019, and recently confirms the bar is indeed still open.

One reason for the confusion is related to who owns the property on which the bar sits. The original Trader Vic’s moved to its current location in 1972, when management signed a 50-year lease — meaning that lease is set to expire in 2023. Faith Nebergall, the bar and restaurant’s general manager, tells Berkeleyside the building has yet to be sold, but since the future is TBD, the bar stopped booking events, which made people speculate about the location’s closure; adjusted hours due to COVID in the last few years only fanned the flames. In any case, for a little while longer, at least, Trader Vic’s will keep dealing out its problematically themed food and drink.

Two San Francisco businesses win new locations

On Friday, April 15, five Bay Area businesses pitched, “Shark Tank”-style, to a panel of judges including the founders of Square Pie Guys and Curry Up Now. Tech company Raydiant, a business specializing in digital signage, hosted the contest to find a new tenant for its headquarters. Azikiwee Anderson and his business Rize Up, a San Francisco’s bakery Anderson started as a way to channel his frustration over the killing of George Floyd in 2020, took home the top prize. Chelsea Tatola, co-founder of Kiss My Boba, came in as a runner-up. Now both entrepreneurs have been guaranteed free space in the tech company’s offices in SoMa.

Off the Grid to set up shop at Salesforce Tower

Denizens of downtown San Francisco rejoice — popular food truck outlet Off the Grid is coming to Salesforce Tower. In addition to returning this spring to its Fort Mason haunt, the group is committing to two food trucks at 415 Mission Street every Tuesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. It looks like the downtown power lunch is truly back.

Lab-grown meat, poultry, and seafood company raises $400 million in funding

The mad scientists at Berkeley cell-cultivated meat business Upside Foods are at it again. According to The San Francisco Business Times, the company raised $400 million in a Series C round which the company claims is the largest in industry history. The company’s valuation is now over $1 billion, a certifiable lab-grown unicorn. In late 2021, the company debuted its $50 million Emeryville production facility, and in January gobbled up a Wisconsin startup that made faux lobster and scallops.