Less than a week after the owner of buzzy Oakland restaurant Hi Felicia announced plans to open a much-anticipated second business in San Francisco, arrangements for Sluts wine bar to move into a Duboce Triangle-area space have fallen through. In Instagram posts shared to both the Hi Felicia and Sluts accounts on Thursday, August 25, which have since been deleted, owner Imana (who goes only by her first name for privacy reasons) says the deal to take over space near the intersection of Market and Octavia streets has been “abruptly” called off.
Imana first shared plans to expand her fast-growing business with a natural wine bar back in October 2021, about six months before she debuted the brick-and-mortar version of her supper club, which she launched out of her apartment during the pandemic. The restaurant, an ambitious tasting course destination in downtown Oakland, opened in April 2022 and has earned much attention since, in part for attracting high-profile diners like actress, chef, and NBA wife Ayesha Curry. Although back in 2021 Imana said she planned to open Sluts in an “unoccupied two-story building in West Oakland,” earlier this week, she wrote that she opted instead to bring the wine bar to the city.
Now, Imana says the lease she thought she’d secured has fallen through. She says she met with the landlord of the 1817 Market Street property on August 22, when he gave her keys to the space and a lease for the building — only to call off the deal and change the locks a few days later. The reverse course came in part due to what she characterizes as a miscommunication over plans to install new a stone bartop in space. “It was just really harsh and abrupt,” Imana says, adding that she feels the landlord fostered a false sense of security by giving her keys to the building before the lease was signed.
The post also seems to indicate the breakdown of the deal came about in part because of her plans to open a queer-friendly bar and her identity as a young business owner. “Old landlords are too scared to take a chance on young tenants opening liberating and fresh concepts,” the post reads. “These are the moments I really hate being in the business, these are the moments that make me give up faith.”
On Thursday afternoon, a real estate broker for Touchstone Commercial Partners, Inc., which lists the 1817 Market Street space, pointed out there never was a finalized deal for the wine bar to move into the property. In an email to Eater SF, Cameron Tu, one of two agents on the online property listing, called the decision to announce the project’s location “premature” since the lease was still subject to negotiation — not finalized. He also denied that the inability to reach an executed lease had anything to do with the identity of the owner or the concept of Sluts. “We wish them the best in their endeavors,” he wrote.
Imana, who says she first found 1817 Market Street last year while looking for a home for Hi Felicia, says she’ll continue to look for a space for Sluts — both in San Francisco and Oakland. “As we all know, I’m a savage and determined business owner,” the post concludes. “So I will be back. In a space that deserves how I’m about to turn up.”