The last eighteen months haven’t been so swell for the Castro neighborhood in terms of restaurant and retail vacancies, with a disturbingly large number of lifeless storefronts still darkening both the Market Street and Castro Street corridors. There are a couple of signs of hope, however, with the recent opening of Fable (558 Castro Street) in the long empty Luna space, and a notice that went up yesterday in the window of 2223 Market, a.k.a. the recently, passive aggressively shuttered Jake’s on Market. A hotel investment group based on the Peninsula has snapped up the lease there, and we should have some more details of what the new concept will be within a month or so.
Owner Wayne Levenfeld declined to comment on the deal, telling Grub Street there would be more to say in the coming weeks. However we note that his company, Pacific Valley Investors Hotel Group, has not, as far as we can tell, dabbled in restaurant management before outside of hotels. They’ve sold off a number of properties in the last ten years, and they currently operate the Best Western Carmel Mission Inn, and the Sanctuary Beach Resort in Marina, near Salinas.
Elsewhere in the neighborhood, we are still awaiting the delayed opening of Pica Pica Maize Kitchen at 3970 17th Street, which had promised to open by last month but remains under construction. There are rumors of several interested parties swirling around the Trigger space (2344 Market), where leaseholder Greg Bronstein sold off the liquor license last year but remains in control of the lease. The Dancing Pig (former Nirvana) space is becoming an Italian concept from the Poesia team. And Chipotle still has its sights on the very prominent Home space down at Church, but have not yet brought the project before Planning.
There remain ten more spaces on the market nearby, including the huge former bank space at the corner of Market and Castro recently vacated by Diesel, prompting the Castro and Upper Market Merchants association and the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association to panic a little and discuss hiring a consultant to do a retail study.
Still dark with no immediate prospects in sight are the Blue space (2337 Market Street), and, of course, The Patio Café (531 Castro Street), which has only been vacant about fifteen years now, due to the alleged stubbornness of owner Les Natali. The owners of Tangerine, meanwhile, have not popped back up anywhere in the neighborhood, as they promised back in August.
Given how lively the neighborhood generally is, in terms of foot traffic and street life, this is all sort of sad. But hopefully it marks the dawn of a new era in which there will hopefully be more interesting, and higher quality food options in the neighborhood down the line.