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Food & Drink

San Francisco cafe may never reopen: Owners blame empty offices

A man walks in front of a restaurant.
A man walks in front of Blue Front Cafe on Friday. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Days after filing for bankruptcy, the co-owner of San Francisco's Blue Front Cafe said he has no plans to reopen his Haight Street restaurant after running it for more than 30 years.

Located at 1430 Haight St., the cafe is known for dishing out Mediterranean fare, including shawarma, gyros and kebabs. The cafe has been operating at the same location since it first opened in 1961, according to co-owner Issam Khoury.

Khoury confirmed he filed for bankruptcy when reached by phone and said the restaurant has been closed since November and that he has no plans to reopen.

"I don't think we can reopen," he said. "We don't know what's going to happen."

Khoury said sales took a nosedive during Covid, with remote work and empty Downtown offices killing the catering arm of his restaurant, which he said generated $10,000 a day in revenue.

The inside of a restaurant sits empty.
Blue Front Cafe on Haight Street has been closed indefinitely since November. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Co-owner Hani Khoury also confirmed the business' indefinite closure.

"We are out of Blue Front Cafe indefinitely due to the lack of enough business and the diminishing corporate lunches which we depended on to supplement our business income," Hani Khoury said in an email.

The cafe's rent has dropped from its pre-pandemic rate of $12,400 a month to $6,500, but the Khourys still can't afford to keep the doors open.

"Until March 17, 2020, we had orders like crazy," Issam Khoury said. "We stayed open until November, but there were no orders—not enough to pay the rent."

Worse still, poor sales have made it hard for Khoury to pay off a non-forgivable business loan from the Small Business Administration he took out during the pandemic to stay afloat. Khoury declined to share the loan amount, only saying it is "a lot."

Khoury blamed the pandemic for bad business, saying it killed the catering portion of his business and meant he could no longer afford to pay off his loan and pay rent.

"This is what's going on in San Francisco right now," he said. "Those of us who were depending on catering, we're suffering right now."

The restaurant's financial woes are apparent beyond the bankruptcy filing. When The Standard visited Blue Front Cafe, a Nov. 29 eviction notice showed they owned two months in back rent totaling $13,000. Khoury said he had not yet seen the eviction notice.

An eviction notice is posted in a restaurant window.
A Nov. 29 eviction notice says the owners of Blue Front Cafe owe two months in back rent totaling $13,000. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Blue Front Cafe has also faced financial woes, even before the pandemic. In 2019, the cafe cut back its hours, blaming construction along the upper Haight Street corridor and increasingly popular food delivery apps, which they said cut into profits.

Pausing in front of the Blue Front Cafe, Brian Kingan gazed inside. He had ordered and paid for a chicken shawarma wrap online but only found the restaurant shuttered.

"I'll have to see if I can get reimbursed," Kingan said.

A man stands in front of a restaurant.
Brian Kingan stands in front of Blue Front Cafe on Friday. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Standing in the rain, still hungry and at a loss, Kingan reminisced about Blue Front's cuisine.

"It was really good," Kingan said.

The Blue Front Cafe's landlord, Shukri Hanhan, did not respond to requests for comment.