Remember the controversy and discrimination allegations that erupted over the Local Mission mini-empire earlier this year? Well, embattled owner Yaron Milgrom, who lives within a couple of blocks of his four Mission businesses near the 24th Street corridor, is once again fending off a call for a boycott as protesters claim he's rebuffed their demands for sensitivity training and more local hiring.
It is, no doubt, a very San Francisco scuffle that's been going on since Milgrom's fairly rapid expansion from one arguably gentrfying business in 2010 (Local Mission Eatery) to four as of this year, with the opening of Local Cellar.
The critically well received, but arguably pricy seafood spot Local's Corner, which opened in 2012, is at the center of allegations that erupted last year after a prominent member of the neighborhood Latino community claimed she and her family were denied service at brunch. Milgrom and the restaurant staff claimed they simply could not accommodate a walk-in party of eight, and that's why the group was turned away.
As Mission Local (the blog) now reports, activists have at least twice tried to test Local's Corner to see if they'd receive similar treatment. On one occasion, in December, an "ethnically diverse" group of boisterous individuals from City College descended on the restaurant, adding more people to their party as others arrived, and they were asked to move to the larger sister restaurant Local Mission Eatery. On another occasion, Anna Slavicek, a white public school teacher and member of the activist group Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), went to the restaurant with five other white friends.
"We just went in six white people,” she said recently. “We told them that we might have two more, so they put together three small tables and laid a place setting, so it was clear they were accommodating. It was empty and we were treated wonderfully.”
The SF City College crowd that had been turned away were told they were being too loud, she said, ”so we purposely talked loudly and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ loudly. And the server was lovely, and we got good service.”
ACCE is now calling for a boycott of all four of Milgrom's businesses, including the recently opened Local Mission Market. Milgrom argues that he's already met some of their group's demands and they are just being unreasonable. "They are persisting, because I will not sign their document, with their language, on their terms, [which has no] commitment on their end [to end their protests]."
Among ACCE's demands are signage notifying customers to call the Human Rights Commission if they experience discrimination in the restaurant, sensitivity training for existing restaurant staff, and local (and Latino/a) hires in the kitchen and front-of-house staff. Milgrom has so far complied with the sensitivity training and making a kitchen hire from the Mission Language Vocational culinary program.
As a result of previous bad press and graffiti, Milgrom says the market is operating "below its potential and has grown slower than it should have" and business at Local's Corner is down 20 percent over last year.