It looks like a high-end SF Japanese restaurant's attempt at preserving the fine dining experience via outdoor plastic domes — and preventing panhandlers or other wanderers from bothering diners — is a violation of local pandemic health orders.
Hashiri, the baller kaiseki/omakase restaurant that opened four years ago on Mint Plaza, snagged a slew of headlines two weeks ago — including on SFist — when they debuted a set of plastic geodesic domes for small-group dining outdoors on Mint Plaza. As one of the restaurant managers said at the time, the domes were about creating "safety and peace" in which to enjoy the restaurant's $200+ multi-course meals, and, "Mint Plaza is a phenomenal space, it’s just sometimes the crowd is not too favorable."
The domes, dubbed "garden igloos" by their manufacturer, are often seen on rooftops at Chicago restaurants and elsewhere where the weather can be more... inclement.
But now, as the Chronicle reports, the city has demanded Hashiri remove the domes because they don't allow for adequate air flow — which is the reason outdoor dining is being permitted over dining in the first place. City guidelines for such tent structures state that they must be open on all sides to allow for air flow — Hashiri manager Kenichiro Matsuura tells the Chronicle he believed the domes' small windows and door provided this.
Matsuura goes on to suggest that complainants who were more put off by the contrast of rich and poor displayed by the domes and the surrounding streets were to blame for tipping off the Department of Public Health — though the widespread news coverage of the funny little structures couldn't have helped.
"It’s good to see other people’s perspectives, but it’s sad to see so many people want to see us fail," Matsuura tells the Chronicle.
Jennifer Friedenbach, the longtime executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, issued a statement to the Chronicle saying, "It’s often hard to tease out whether the restaurant is responding to legitimate issues or the restaurant is responding to affluent diners who feel guilty about eating expensive meals in the presence of destitute people."
And Ho called the tents "America’s problems in a plastic nutshell” and provocatively suggested that the domed structures' "shape and transparency are both a visual echo and rebuttal to the multicolored rows of dome-shape tents that line the streets of downtown San Francisco."
Like many business owners around San Francisco, Matsuura suggests that the city should be doing more about the homeless problem and less to crack down on struggling businesses trying to survive. But the plight of downtown restaurants, especially those that typically served downtown workers entertaining clients or colleagues on expense accounts, is especially grim and will remain so for months regardless of outdoor-dining rules.
As Matsuura tells the Chronicle, after several days of continuing to serve diners unprotected the elements or the homeless, "We’re not sure we’re going to be able to survive."
Also, the restaurant could be out the $4,000 that was spent on the three "garden igloos" — though the Department of Public Health inspector apparently left open the possibility that the domes could be allowed back with "modifications," as Eater notes.