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Iconic North Beach spot where Robin Williams once partied fears eviction

Three smiling people pose for a photo, the men wearing hats and the woman with long, dark hair. They're in front of a bar area.
Robin Williams with Peña Pachamama co-owners Eddy Navia, left, and Quentin Navia, right, inside their restaurant in 2006. | Source: Courtesy LCCRSF

The owners of a storied North Beach institution, where Robin Williams once partied, fear the restaurant could be evicted and close after 25 years due to a lease dispute with their landlord.

Vegan South American restaurant and live flamenco music venue Peña Pachamama had its long-term lease expire in December 2022 and has been a month-to-month tenant since.

Co-owners Quentin and Eddy Navia say they've been battling the landlords' representatives, Hogan & Vest, since the lease expired and now the two parties are at a stalemate over the terms of a potential new five-year lease. The Navias fear Peña Pachamama's closure is imminent.

A man runs past a restaurant.
A man runs past a South American vegan restaurant and live music venue, Peña Pachamama, on Thursday. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

“At any point, you can have a 30-day [eviction] notice slapped on the door,” Quentin Navia told The Standard regarding their current month-to-month lease.

The restaurant’s name roughly translates to “a group of people gathered around Mother Earth,” according to two-time Latin Grammy nominee Eddy, who co-founded the band Savia Andina in 1975 in his home country of Bolivia.

“It’s about being exposed to the music and giving the audience the flavor of South American music [and] Carnaval,” Eddy said of the restaurant.

A man sits at a table.
Peña Pachamama co-owner Eddy Navia sits inside his restaurant on Thursday. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

The owners and their law firm held a press conference on Thursday to put public pressure on their landlords in the hopes of saving the venue. They also launched a GoFundMe to help secure a long-term lease.

Bismah Jaffer of the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights, who is representing the Navias, said the landlords forgave $23,000 in back rent in March after hearing about their plans to stage a press conference.

“They are aware of the public pressure,” Jaffer said. 

'We have worked with them'

Hogan & Vest CEO Simon Wong said the landlord has forgiven more than $70,000 in back rent owed between April 2020 and March 2024, but did not allow The Standard to review ledgers to verify his claim.

“If we had said ‘cough up,’ they wouldn’t have paid; they would have left,” Wong said. "We have worked with them.”

Wong also disputes the month-to-month lease is a threat to the restaurant, as evicting the restaurant would be “counter to the interest of the landlord.”

“That’s money out of our pocket,” Wong added.

A plate of food appears in a photo.
A platter of vegan South American food is served to this reporter at Peña Pachamama on Thursday. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

While negotiations are still being hashed out for a new five-year lease, both parties have reached a sticking point. The landlord has offered a monthly rent of $7,500, which is what the restaurant owners currently pay. But the Navias are pushing to pay $1,000 less in rent, saying the landlord is eligible to apply for a $17,000 annual rent subsidy from the city because Peña Pachamama is a legacy business. They say the grant funds would make up for the lower rent.

Wong said he hesitates to lower the rent contractually based on grant money he’s not certain the restaurant would receive.

“What if [the Navias] don’t get it?” Wong asked.

People dance inside a restaurant.
Dancers and customers twirl during a 2019 live music show at Peña Pachamama inspired by Carnaval in Bolivia. | Source: Courtesy Peña Pachamama

Other sticking points involve a one-time 1.5% lease commission fee of $7,650 and an annually recurring security deposit equal to three months’ rent.

Wong said the fee and deposit are standard practice for commercial tenants, but the Navias' lawyer called the fee "ridiculous."

Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who represents the area, called for the property manager to negotiate a fair lease agreement with the restaurant's co-owners. 

People eat in a restaurant.
Diners eat at Peña Pachamama on Thursday evening. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

"Hogan & Vest must guarantee its survival with a long-term lease under fair terms,” Peskin said in a Thursday press release. “Realty companies must respect our city's commitment to honor our legacy businesses.”

By 8 p.m. Thursday, Eddy sat alone inside his restaurant, having welcomed just a handful of customers all night and said he couldn't bring himself to think about the eviction threat.

“We haven’t gotten to that point, what the future’s gonna be,” Eddy said.