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San Francisco sues to evict iconic Fisherman’s Wharf restaurants for $1.4M back rent

San Francisco officials are trying to evict Fishermen’s Grotto No. 9 and Tarantino’s, saying the restaurants have failed to pay rent for years.  | Source: Paul Kuroda for The Standard

The Port of San Francisco is trying to evict two historic restaurants with a prominent place in Fisherman’s Wharf, one of the city’s premiere tourist destinations.

The San Francisco City Attorney filed unlawful detainer lawsuits in San Francisco Superior Court Tuesday against Fishermen’s Grotto No. 9 and Tarantino’s, alleging the restaurants—which remained largely shuttered throughout the pandemic—have failed to pay rent for years. 

Both restaurants are registered under the name Herringbone Tavern Inc., which is owned by businessman Chris Henry, who also owns Barrel House Tavern in Sausalito and Tommy’s Joynt on the corner of Geary Boulevard and Van Ness Avenue. The San Francisco Business Times first reported news of the lawsuits. 

Henry did not respond to a request for comment about the future of the Fisherman’s Wharf restaurants. 

READ MORE: Is There a Future for Fisherman’s Wharf Without the Fishermen?

Fishermen’s Grotto—which started in 1946, is located at 2847 Taylor St. and is known for its distinct facade and turn-of-the-century neon signs—owes $332,642.22 in unpaid rent between October 2022 and September 2023.

Tarantino’s, which started in 1935 around the corner at 206 Jefferson St., racked up  $147,346.08 in unpaid rent over the same period, according to the lawsuit. 

But a San Francisco Port representative said that’s only a portion of what’s owed. Boris Delepine, a spokesman for the port, said neither restaurant has paid rent since March 2020, bringing the total for both to $1.4 million in back rent. 

“The Port’s goals regarding these two restaurants were to see them both fully reopen and a feasible plan to pay the $1.4 million in back rent owed. We’ve engaged with Mr. Henry over the past three years to encourage these outcomes, but unfortunately they did not come to pass,” Delepine said in a statement. “We remain open and willing to explore short and long-term strategies to keep both restaurants open and active.”

A string of restaurants have closed at Fisherman’s Wharf as pandemic shutdowns took their toll on foot traffic and tourism. Alioto’s, a century-old restaurant on the wharf, decided to pay an early termination fee to walk away from its lease last year.

Similar deals were struck by Pompei’s Grotto and Lou’s Fish Shack, with their respective lease terminations approved by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. 

The vacancies continue to stack up as a team led by longtime San Francisco businessman and political power player Lou Giraudo looks to overhaul and update the wharf.

Their group, called Fisherman’s Wharf Revitalized, seeks to redevelop the port-owned property in the area into an events center, experiential museum and new winery and distillery. 

The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted earlier this month to allow the San Francisco Port to enter into negotiations with Giraudo’s team.