News flew around the local blogosphere late Wednesday that, following an Entertainment Commission hearing on Tuesday, the extraordinarily delayed revival of Hamburger Mary's might, three and a half years after we first heard about it, actually in-real-life open this fall. The project, spearheaded by Castro bar owner Les Natali, has become something of a joke around the Castro neighborhood after Natali let the former Patio Cafe space at 531 Castro Street sit empty for well over 15 years. But now, according to the new restaurant's general manager Larry Metzger, they are set to open "after Labor Day" now that they've secured an entertainment license that will permit them to host drag shows like other Hamburger Mary's locations do.
Hoodline had the news from the Entertainment Commission meeting, noting that Natali had to seek a conditional use permit for Hamburger Mary's per the Planning Commission back in 2014, due to the fact that the chain has more than 11 locations and therefore qualifies as formula retail.
Hoodline also noted last year that Natali had surrendered the full liquor license associated with 531 Castro Street due to the fact that it had been closed for well over the 15-day limit that the ABC imposes on these things but as SFist confirmed today, Natali reinstated the license in April of this year, though it's set to expire next week, on July 31, unless he pays a renewal fee. Remarkably, the license remains active after all these years, according to ABC information officer John Carr.
All this needs to be taken with an enormous grain of salt, however. Natali claimed back in April 2016 that the restaurant was ready to open "in a few weeks" just as soon as a remodel was complete under designer Craige Walters. Twice in 2015 Natali posted ads seeking a chef for the restaurant, apparently pretending that an opening was imminent when it clearly was not.
But enter Metzger, who owns and operates The Mix bar around the corner. SFist has reached out to Metzger to get some confirmation about the opening details but we have not yet heard back.
Should this all prove true, the opening will be good news for the block and the neighborhood, especially after the news of two months back that The Sausage Factory two doors down might not be long for this world.
Another restaurant owner in the neighborhood who toured the space last year also noted an important detail: The Patio's famous patio has now been covered over and at least partially enclosed.
SF Weekly notes that there's a "bar stocked with wine" visible through the front windows and new looking furnishings, but I can confirm that those stools and that wine have been there at least two years if not more. SF Weekly also speaks to someone in the Planning Department who confirms that "They plan on having comedy and drag performances, lip-synching, live and recorded music, music videos, charity bingo games and karaoke" at the new restaurant.
Once upon a time, the first Hamburger Mary's opened on Folsom Street in 1974 in the space now occuped by The Willows. The concept was simple: burgers, American food, and cocktails coupled with drag queen waitresses and drag shows during dinner. As BrokeAss Stuart detailed in a 2016 history of the place, one half of the couple who founded it went on to create a franchise with locations in Hawaii, West Hollywood, and elsewhere, and there are now 18 locations nationwide. The original SF location closed in 2001, around the time that The Patio closed.
So, stay tuned. Maybe, just maybe, this is happening this time. But maybe it is not.