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‘Like dealing with Putin’: Presidio brunch spot closing after 18 years

A man leans against a restaurant bar.
Ray Tang, owner of the Presidio Social Club, poses for a portrait at his restaurant. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

A popular San Francisco brunch spot that’s served millions of meals for 18 years will close down after difficult negotiations with its landlord, flagging profits and other woes. 

Presidio Social Club, which also serves dinner, will not renew its lease next year, according to the owner and founder, Ray Tang. But the business could close as soon as next month if an agreement can be made with his landlords, the Presidio Trust, a federal organization.

Tang said a steep rise in rent, the high cost of doing business and a persistent unsightly construction site across the street from his outdoor patio in the scenic Presidio are also motivating his decision to close his restaurant by April next year or sooner.

“I’m barely hanging on,” said Tang. “I’m just trying to keep the doors open.”

The inside of a brunch restaurant is seen in a photo.
Sales have dropped 50% since 2019 at the Presidio Social Club, according to the owner. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

Tang said the trust is being difficult in its negotiations and compared dealing with the organization to negotiating with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Sales have dropped 50% since 2019, Tang said, while monthly rent climbed from $15,993 to $22,677. Staffing costs are also a burden, as is his $4,200 monthly bill for electricity supplied by the Western Area Power Administration.

Tang said he spent roughly 40% of revenue on workers’ wages in 2019, but by 2023, costs increased to more than 55% of revenue. In July 2023, the city’s minimum wage increased from $16.99 to $18.07, the biggest increase since 2015.

Another frustration for Tang is a construction site directly opposite his popular patio that he said has been an eyesore for two years and ruined his customers’ dining experience.

A fence sitting in front of a construction site is seen in a photograph
Ray Tang, the owner of the Presidio Social Club, says a construction site opposite the restaurant's patio is an eyesore that's hurt sales. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

“My business is about giving people an experience,” Tang said. “But this construction doesn’t give people good first impressions.”

The trust contends the construction has now finished, but an unsightly fence remained up when The Standard visited Friday.

‘Like dealing with Putin’

Tang said he received two federal Payment Protection Program loans from the government during the pandemic worth around 20 weeks of labor costs, or roughly $385,000, and a Restaurant Revitalization Fund grant worth equal to the amount of his pandemic-related losses. Tang would not share how much money he received from the grant.

Tang said the Presidio Trust’s director of commercial asset management, Jeff Eichenfield, effectively threatened him after a Jan. 3 conversation about ending the lease early.

“When I said that I wanted to terminate the lease early, the landlord said, ‘Well, we are a federal agency, and you have these federal loans and grants. We can make it difficult for you,’” Tang said. “It’s been like dealing with Putin, like Russia.”

A man sits at a restaurant bar.
Ray Tang said the trust only gave him a week’s notice before a planned Friday power outage during the busy holiday season. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

Eichenfield did not respond to requests for comment. The Presidio Trust declined to comment on lease negotiations as they are confidential. 

Beyond the painful negotiations, Tang said the trust only gave him a week’s notice before a planned Friday power outage during the holiday season, costing him between $20,000 and $25,000 in lost sales.

Tang said the last-minute warning about the power outage made him feel the trust did not value him or his restaurant.

“They put all this money into this beautiful park at Tunnel Tops while we’ve served 2 million people,” Tang said. “They show all this love to people visiting the park. Why can’t they show us the same love?”