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Here’s Why Legendary San Francisco Tiki Bar Trad’r Sam Is Closed ‘Indefinitely’

The tiki bar’s co-owner John Munguia says it will reopen “in a few weeks”

A sign that reads “Trad’r Sam.”
The neon sign at Trad’r Sam tiki bar in the Richmond District.
Lauren Saria
Dianne de Guzman is a deputy editor at Eater SF writing about Bay Area restaurant and bar trends, upcoming openings, and pop-ups.

Trad’r Sam is a longtime San Francisco institution, serving potent scorpion bowls and tiki drinks since 1937. But now a sign on the bar’s door claims Trad’r Sam is closed “indefinitely,” and court records show a legal battle has been playing out between its owners, siblings Dorothy Riedel and John Munguia.

Fans need not fear, however, according to the owners. Though a visit to the bar on Monday afternoon confirmed the bar’s parklet has been removed, there was some activity inside the premises. And in an emailed statement Tuesday, September 26, owner John Munguia promised the bar would return in a few weeks.

Two pina coladas.
Pina coladas at Trad’r Sam.
Lauren Saria

“Trad’r Sam’s owners, brother and sister John and Dorothy, are happy to announce that following an unexpected closure, the family business since 1972 will be back in a few weeks,” Munguia’s email reads in part. “Trad’r Sam was established in 1937, and John and Dorothy are excited to honor this unique local landmark and will be doing some work over the next several weeks to fix up the bar while maintaining its charm. The family looks forward to serving San Francisco for decades more to come.”

Despite Munguia’s chipper assurances the bar will reopen in the coming weeks, a legal battle has been unfolding behind the scenes for the past three years. Riedel and Munguia were part-owners of Trad’r Sam, along with their mother, Helen Munguia from 1988 until Helen’s death in 2009. According to a complaint filed with the Superior Court of San Francisco in August 2020, Riedel attempted to claim two-thirds ownership and accused Munguia of “interfering with the normal operations of the bar,” including by allegedly withdrawing funds without consent, preventing access to the bar, removing property from Trad’r Sam, and damaging fixtures inside, claiming damages of $18,500.

In a cross-complaint, Munguia and his attorneys claim that neither sibling pursued their mother’s stake in the business and that in April 2020 Munguia learned from Riedel that the business was in jeopardy of losing its space due to four months of unpaid rent. Munguia’s cross-complaint states he also learned of additional past-due bills related to the business. He extended a loan to the bar for $18,500, the complaint alleges, to fix the issues, later withdrawing it from the accounts when he learned that Riedel was claiming a larger ownership stake than him.

A judgment levied in May 2023, shows the court decided that Munguia and Riedel each own a 50 percent stake in Trad’r Sam and its liquor licenses. It also awarded Riedel $25,299 for her charges against Munguia. Munguia, meanwhile, was ordered to pay the partnership $27,500, while also awarding him $197,306, to be paid by Riedel.

Eater SF reached out to Riedel’s attorney for comment on the temporary closure and will update when we hear back.