Sadly, Arguello and The Commissary are no more at the Presidio, and we learn this nine months after the restaurants laid off their staffs to prepare for months of pandemic closure. And despite the greater-than-average amount of outdoor space around these restaurants that would make outdoor dining more than feasible, something in the six-year-old business arrangement that opened the restaurants appears to have collapsed.
There were rumors back in early May 2020, subsequently dismissed as premature, that Traci Des Jardins's two restaurants in the Presidio were closing permanently. About 130 workers were furloughed by Bon Appetit Management, which was the main food vendor for the Presidio Trust, including employees at Arguello and the Commissary, both of which opened adjacent to the Presidio Main Parade Ground with Des Jardins at the helm in 2014. And a piece in the Chronicle made the closures sound like they were for good.
In twin announcements on the Instagram accounts for Arguello and The Commissary, a representative writes that the six-year partnership between the Trust, Bon Appetit Management, and Des Jardins has ended "due to the complicated pressures brought by the COVID-19 pandemic."
"We are proud of the thousands of locally and sustainably sourced meals that our teams have served at our award-winning... restaurants, and through [Presidio Foods catering]. We are sincerely grateful to all who have chosen to dine with us and trust us with your special events over the years. Stay well."
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Jaunts to both restaurants were fun escapes that felt like they were escapes outside the city, even though you were still within SF proper — and the food at The Commissary in particular was terrific.
It seems this was a case of using the pandemic to renegotiate a partnership that may not have been working.
In a statement to the Chronicle last year, Presidio Trust CEO Jean Fraser implied that food service was simply the first thing to be cut as necessary belt-tightening was occurring. "The Trust Act says the trust was created to preserve and restore the Presidio for the enjoyment of people around the world,” Fraser said. “That’s what we’re doubling down on.”
She added, regarding the potential for reopening the temporarily shuttered restaurants, "It’s harder to bring a restaurant back up [to operation, compared to a hotel]... We need to focus elsewhere. Our key focus is maintaining this place."
Employees of the restaurants subsequently told Eater that this was the first they'd heard that their furlough might be more of a layoff, and they had heard nothing from their employers. Bon Appetit Management said they'd requested a correction from the Chronicle, and said that negotiations were ongoing to create a landlord-tenant structure for the deal, as opposed to a partnership with the Trust.
This means that Des Jardins's once robust local empire has shrunk even further, following the 2019 closure of Jardiniere, and the subsequent closure of her taqueria Mijita at the Ferry Building. She still operates Public House at Oracle Park in partnership with Bon Appetit, as well as School Night, a Dogpatch cocktail bar.