Legendary Oakland BBQ stop Flint’s Barbecue may finally have its brick-and-mortar reincarnation, but there’s community pushback against the ghost kitchen facility that would house it.
There have been rumblings for a couple of years that Flint’s Barbecue, an Oakland BBQ phenom established in 1968 that spread to multiple locations until the last one closed in 2010, would be returning as a brick-and-mortar restaurant. And in a “careful what you wish for” kind of story, it seems they have found a space to operate. But as Berkeleyside reports, that space is in a ghost kitchen run by Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick, whose new billion-dollar concept CloudKitchens has quickly developed a reputation as a haven for illegal parking and allegedly poor adherence to health regulations.
Back in the 1970s and ’80s, Flint's Barbecue was an icon of Oakland barbecue. Now, the granddaughter of the restaurant’s founder is raising money to reopen its long-shuttered West Oakland location. https://t.co/alcXzAz53M— KQED (@KQED) March 24, 2021
The whole story smelled pretty sweet back in March, when KQED published the above story that Flint’s Barbecue would reopen at one of its old locations (3114 San Pablo Ave., one of its three original locations), in a building that had sat empty since Flint’s closed in the late 90s. Crystal Martin, granddaughter of the founding pitmaster Willie Flintroy, had been working on the revival as a series of pop-ups, which combined with a GoFundMe campaign, finally had the juice to reopen in the old spot it had occupied 25 years before.
But last week, Berkeleyside reported on the above Facebook announcement wherein Flint’s posted that “The buyer for the San Pablo location has decided not to continue with the purchase.” But they added, encouragingly, that “we have found a new location on the North Oakland/Berkeley border and signed our new lease yesterday! 🎉 We will give the exact location closer to our grand opening.”
We have found a new location on the North Oakland/Berkeley border and signed our new lease yesterday! 🎉— Flints Barbecue (@FlintsBarbecue) May 26, 2021
We will give the exact location closer to our grand opening! Thank you for your continued love & support, couldn't have done it without you!
We will see you soon! pic.twitter.com/7Z1znMtnTf
KQED did some digging to find that this North Oakland-Berkeley border location was actually “a takeout- and delivery-only restaurant that will be part of a new CloudKitchens ghost kitchen facility located in a big warehouse at 5325 Adeline Street, at the border of North Oakland and Emeryville.” Martin told KQED that this new Flint’s would accept pick-up orders, more like this "digital food hall" in Cupertino than the app delivery-only model utilized up until now by most ghost kitchens. But that lack of a visitable kitchen presence has allowed ghost kitchens to steal other restaurants’ namesakes and identities, and operate in unregulated wild west fashion with poor sanitation and double-parking violations as a nonstop way of life.
While former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick's project may check all the Planning Dept. boxes for HBX-1, it ignores major impacts on the Santa Fe & Golden Gate neighborhoods, including public nuisances due to traffic flow, noise, truck traffic, parking, blocking lanes. pic.twitter.com/uMK0ozwVWI— Cathy Leonard (@CathyLeo2016May) May 22, 2021
Those behaviors have already garnered some built-in community opposition to the facility, according to the brilliantly named Emeryville newspaper The E’ville Eye. No one’s complaining that Flint’s Barbecue may return, but community organizations Golden Gate Community Association and Oakland Neighborhoods for Equity feel the permits were approved with suspiciously little notice, and to a company with a pretty poor track record of community improvement or relations.
“CloudKitchens plans to open this July, operating 36 commercial kitchens that sell to more than a 1,000 take-out customers per day, 16-18 hours a day, 7 days a week, without off-street parking,” these organizations complain in an online petition. “The City’s Planning & Building Department swiftly approved permits for this business, owned by billionaire and former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, without public notice or consideration of its impacts on residents.”
Whether grassroots opposition and online petitions can smoke out Travis Kalanick’s expansion plans is an open question. But there are still more chances to enjoy the rebooted Flint’s Barbecue in pop-up form, at a 90s Cookout event in Oakland on July 17.
Image: Flint’s Barbecue via Facebook