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Korean barbecue spot sued by Stonestown mall for $1.4M

People walk through a parking lot outside a mall.
Pedestrians walk through the parking lot of Stonestown Galleria in San Francisco on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023. | Source: Juliana Yamada for The Standard

A San Francisco shopping mall has sued a restaurateur couple for more than half a million dollars in back rent, according to a lawsuit filed in San Francisco County Superior Court on Tuesday.

Gangnam Korean BBQ co-owner Whar Han Ng told The Standard the restaurant shuttered in November after Stonestown Galleria evicted it for owing $545,893.42 in unpaid rent accrued during the pandemic-era shutdown between March 2020 and summer 2021. Ng added that the mall is asking for around 10% interest on the unpaid sum by late 2023, adding to the owners' financial woes.

In total, the thriving West Side shopping center is demanding $1.4 million in unpaid rent and other fees, according to the lawsuit.

A Stonestown spokesperson declined to comment for this story, citing pending litigation.

The complaint states that damages are tied to the tenant not paying rent, thereby breaking the lease in the amount of $666,900. Additional fees, including attorney's fees and interest, bring the total demanded to $1.4 million.

People walk into a shopping mall.
Shoppers walk into Stonestown Galleria during Black Friday on Nov. 24, 2023. | Source: Gina Castro/The Standard

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Ng said the monthslong pandemic closure hamstrung his restaurant. He was unable to secure a Payroll Protection Program loan through the government because his business hadn't been open long enough. Gangnam had only signed a lease roughly a year prior, before opening in May 2019.

To qualify for PPP, a business had to have been operating for two years, according to Ng.

"They thought we were scammers," he said. "We were too new."

During the closure, Ng said the restaurant also tried doing delivery with Uber Eats and DoorDash, but high commission rates made it impractical.

"They'd take like 20%," he said. "It just wasn't worth it."

Shoppers outside a shopping mall.
People walk outside Stonestown Galleria in March 2021. | Source: Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Ng said he tried negotiating with Stonestown when he reopened in mid-2021 to reduce the rent from $22,000 a month to $18,000 and pay no interest on back rent, but by the end of the year, negotiations had fallen through.

The Standard asked Ng to provide correspondence and documentation related to negotiation and interest on back rent, but he did not provide them by publication time.

Staring down the barrel of a $1.4 million lawsuit, Ng said if he doesn't win, he's prepared to declare bankruptcy.

Garrett Leahy can be reached at garrett@sfstandard.com