Port Files Suit To Evict Sinbad's

Port Files Suit To Evict Sinbad's
Photos: Geri Koeppel/Hoodline
By Geri Koeppel - Published on April 25, 2015.

On Friday morning, the Port of San Francisco released a statement saying it's starting eviction proceedings against Sinbad's Pier2 Restaurant. But the owners, who have filed a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court against the Port, say they're going to fight.

"We're not going to close," said Duane Stinson, who owns the 40-year-old business with his brothers Tom and Charles. Beyond that, he referred Hoodline to his attorney, Robert Kane.

Port spokesperson Renee Dunn Martin said Sinbad's has five days to respond, and after that, the Port can ask for a court date for an eviction. "Usually the court date is set within three weeks," Martin said. "We did try to work with them and we thought they would use the time to try to relocate somewhere else and to prepare their employees and their families. They’ve basically been in denial."

The Port and Sinbad's could face hefty fines from the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) if the restaurant isn't torn down so the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) can construct a bigger ferry terminal on the site. "The Downtown [San Francisco] Ferry Terminal Expansion Project has been underway for many years," Martin said, "and the owners of Sinbad's have known for many years this project is coming.”

The statement from the Port says it "filed an unlawful detainer lawsuit in Superior Court against the owners of Sinbad’s Restaurant at Pier 2. Sinbad’s lease with the Port expired on March 21, 2015. On March 23, 2015, the Port gave Sinbad’s a 30-day notice demanding the return of the property. The 30-day period has expired and Sinbad’s has not vacated the property."

The Port statement goes on to say Sinbad's was originally supposed to vacate by end of 2014 based on a 2012 settlement agreement in which the Port forgave more than $220,000 in back rent and interest. It adds, "The Port has negotiated in good faith with Sinbad’s for several years to address Sinbad’s lease defaults and accommodate Sinbad’s requests to extend the lease for as long as possible."

Sinbad's, for its part, claims in its lawsuit the the Port hasn't acted in good faith and has failed to work with the BCDC to get an extension so it can continue operating. "This is a question of allowing Sinbad’s to stay until they need the property," said Robert Kane, attorney for Sinbad's. "What’s the rush? Sinbad’s was always under the impression that this particular project was why they needed the Pier torn down." The suit states that the new ferry project isn't starting until spring of 2016.

Kane said the BCDC can amend the San Francisco Waterfront Special Area Plan as it did several times for the America's Cup to allow Sinbad's to stay for now, which would allow the Port to continue to collect the nearly $24,000 monthly rent. "Why would they want to give up over $200,000 worth of rent?" Kane asked. The suit also says the restaurant has been hampered by having only a month-to-month lease since 2000, which made it "unable to make improvements to the restaurant." 

According to a Port document, Sinbad’s employs about 32 to 48 people, depending upon the high or low season, most of whom are members of Unite Here! Local 2 hospitality workers. The restaurant earns about $2 million in annual gross sales (as of September 30, 2014), which the Port says is lower than most other equivalent Port restaurants. Its restaurant scores from the Health Department were in the "poor" or "needs improvement" category the last two visits as well. Sinbad's has two stars on Yelp and is markedly "old-school" in decor and menu offerings.

If you want to get into the nitty gritty of the subject and learn more, here are a couple of original documents: