However, although the proposal has garnered 524 letters and 189 signatures of support, the Valencia Corridor Merchants’ Association (VCMA) is revoking its initial letter of support.
When we reached out to VCMA's vice president, Eileen Hassi Rinaldi of Ritual Coffee Roasters, she told us that the association had been misled about how much ground floor retail would be maintained in the space.
“This is a pretty pivotal corner and a big space,” she said. “When we saw the plans for a kitchen to be installed on the ground floor and for a liquor license, it was a pretty big departure from what we were led to believe.”
The VCMA has roughly 75 merchants that have three general meetings a year, and its board meets monthly. Back in 2013, Rinaldi told us, the merchants floated the idea of a moratorium on restaurants.
More and more spaces were receiving conditional use permits and converting spaces from retail use to food service. According to the VCMA, they brought in more foot traffic to the neighborhood at night, but did little to attract shoppers to the sidewalks during the day.
“It’s concerning for merchants,” she said, saying that commercial properties that change from retail spaces to restaurants rarely convert back.
Rinaldi said that the VCMA was initially supportive of Amado’s proposal. The association wants to see the downstairs venue to reopen, and it believed that the 600 square feet of ground floor retail would be the primary focus of the new business.
“In a perfect world,” she said, “the restaurant would have its own entrance and hours, and there would be two business presences.”
“The bottom line,” Quimby said, “is that VMCA wants 600 feet of retail designated. If you read the approval, we wrote it with 600 square feet of retail.”
Quinby, who’s lived in the neighborhood for the past 25 years, told us he acquired the space in August 2015, when the performance venue was being torn down. He’s spent the past two years “keeping it alive” and going through the process with Planning to get a change of use permit to buoy the space with a full-service bistro.
“The only way to save it is to by providing it with restaurant and liquor,” Quimby said. “We struck a beautiful balance.”
Amado’s owner also argued that the combined retail, restaurant and venue space will attract foot traffic to the corridor both during the day and at night.
“We’ll have the doors open during the day,” Quinby said, “so that increases Valencia Street’s flow of people.”
According to the executive summary that the Planning Commission will review today, the proposed hours of operation for Amado’s ground floor restaurant and retail space are 10am-2am, while the entertainment venue in the basement will be open 6pm-2am. The restaurant is slated to have both lunch and dinner service.
Although the VCMA is revoking its support for the project and the Planning Department has received five letters of concern of the project, Quimby says Amado’s will be good for the Valencia Street community.
“I’ve watched my neighborhood decline,” Quimby told us. “San Francisco is losing its art and theatre spaces. This change of use is the difference between the place being gutted and saving it—this has to happen for it to survive.”
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