Clearing the final major hurdle of the Planning Commission, both the proposed Hamburger Mary's in the former Patio Cafe space (531 Castro) and a proposed location of popular spin class church (or whatever) SoulCycle in the former Diesel store at Castro and Market won approvals on Thursday. This marks a major turning point for the long-suffering retail situation in the Castro, where prominent restaurant and retail spaces have sat vacant for years or in the case of the Patio well over a decade despite a booming local economy.
As Hoodline reports, approvals for both businesses were unanimous, as well as for Philz Coffee, which wants to move from its current small location on 18th Street to a different one at 549 Castro Street.
The case of The Patio has frustrated people in the neighborhood forever, and the space's ridiculously long vacancy seems largely to have been the product of owner Les Natali's stubbornness. Having failed for years to find a suitable tenant, Natali finally landed on Hamburger Mary's, the burger-and-drag-show establishment originally based in SoMa, now with 11 other locations around the country including a popular one in West Hollywood. Natali faced some slight opposition from neighborhood merchants over bringing the chain to the neighborhood, which already has a bevy of burger joints, but he ultimately won significant approval in a vote by the powerful Castro neighborhood association. And despite formula retail rules that could have disqualified Hamburger Mary's, Planning commissioners decided to grant an extension, and now a whole new generation will learn about the enormous patio hiding behind this restaurant that's been closed for 12 years.
Natali, who owns both Toad Hall and Badlands in the neighborhood, still has plenty of enemies, and there is still a chance someone will appeal the commissioners' decision, as the Bay Area Reporter earlier noted.
Then there's the big corner spot formally occupied by Diesel that by all rights should become a big club. After Diesel vacated the iconic former Bank of America building at the corner of Castro and Market in early 2013, there was briefly a proposal to bring a male strip club into the space from some non-local operators a plan that was scrapped after significant pushback from neighborhood merchants, and the daunting task of getting a change-of-use through the city. That space then briefly became West Coast Leather, a tamer business than it sounds, and has sat dormant for six months. SoulCycle should breathe some much-needed life back into this corner property, adjacent to the Castro Muni stop.
Weirdly, Philz sounds like it got the most opposition at yesterday's meeting, in part because there are already 15 existing or upcoming coffee places in the Castro. But Philz was already one of them, so...