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Now San Francisco Is Trying to Lure Pop-Ups Downtown With Promises of Free Rent

Plus, La Canasta closes for good and more Bay Area food intel

Aerial Views Of The Bay Area Getty Images
Dianne de Guzman is a deputy editor at Eater SF writing about Bay Area restaurant and bar trends, upcoming openings, and pop-ups.

For the sake of everyone, let’s not recap every “Downtown San Francisco is doomed” headline, but instead, just skip to the news: San Francisco is seeking to lure pop-ups to downtown with the promise of a few months of free rent and up to $8,000 in grant money, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. It’s the latest initiative of the nonprofit SF New Deal dubbed “Vacant to Vibrant,” and the idea is to pair up landlords with small businesses to temporarily install pop-ups into empty storefronts.

Applications for the initiative opened this week, and the San Francisco Standard has broken down the details. Basically, interested parties can apply and pitch their pop-up concept and, if moved on to the next round, will be paired up with empty spaces and sign a temporary three-month lease with free rent, along with a grant between $3,000 and $8,000 to cover expenses. Landlords can also apply with their spaces and, in return, receive resources for tenant improvements and property expenses valued at up to $5,000 when paired with a pop-up. The city is hoping to host the first pop-ups downtown this summer, and the deadline for applications is Thursday, June 1.

Speaking of revitalizing downtown...

A new nighttime market is set to launch in downtown San Francisco, taking over three blocks with food, cocktails, and artisan vendors during the summer. Bhangra & Beats Night Market is set to run on three Friday evenings — May 12, July 14, and September 8 — around the intersection of Clay and Battery streets in the Financial District, San Francisco Business Times reports. Along with food and drinks, there will also be dance classes, Mehndi tattoos, plus interactive history and art installations. The events are free, but attendees are encouraged to RSVP on Eventbrite in advance.

La Canasta closes after 36 years

Tablehopper captured the news and hardships of the Mier family while La Canasta was temporarily closed, but now it seems the closure has become permanent. SFGATE confirmed the sad closure news with son Alberto Mier, and landlord Rudy Colombini told the news outlet that a new Middle Eastern restaurant is set to take over on May 1.

Blind Pig Speakeasy Lounge relocates

Derrick Li’s new bar Blind Pig opened in October 2022, highlighting his cocktails against the historic backdrop of Cathay House, with cable cars rolling by on California Street. Now Li shares that Blind Pig has moved out of that space and is looking for another place to lay down new roots. For now, Li is taking his cocktails to the new Dragon Horse bar in SoMa in a temporary merger of both businesses.

Update: April 18th, 2023, 1:20 p.m.: This story has been updated to reflect the compensation that landlords will receive if they participate in the “Vacant to Vibrant” plan.