Beloved waterfront restaurant The Ramp could be endangered by a rent dispute its owner is having with the Port of San Francisco, and currently he owes the Port two years in back rent.
Back when The Ramp first opened as a hot dog stand and bait shop in the late 1980s, the Mission Bay neighborhood wasn't even a thing, and no one could have imagined that there would be an 18,000-seat sports arena built a block away one day. Owner Arvind Patel became a partner in the business along with the adjacent San Francisco Boatworks — a boat repair yard and actual haul-out boat ramp — in 1990 and has watched both the development of the neighborhood around The Ramp and the restaurant's own expansion into a sunny-day brunch destination and after-work hangout.
Being primarily an outdoor business, The Ramp was able to stay open and serve customers through much of the pandemic. But now, as the Chronicle reports, Patel has been served a 30-day "notice to cure lease default," and the landlord, the Port of San Francisco, says that Patel owes $779,151 in back rent dating back to March 2020. Also, because of noise complaints and some apparently unapproved renovations, the Port says that Patel's tenancy is "not currently in good standing,"
At issue, Patel says, is not the rent he's supposed to pay for The Ramp — which for 16 years has been a month-to-month deal, equivalent to 6.75% of gross sales — but the rent he's being charged for the boatyard, which he says is more than double the going market rate. The Port is charging 8.75% of gross receipts from the boatyard, which is now the only functioning repair and haul-out boat facility on the San Francisco Peninsula — and the two businesses share a single lease.
Patel tells the Chronicle that he wants to negotiate a lower back-rent agreement and a lower rate for the boatyard going forward, and for the two businesses to each have separate leases. Negotiations are, reportedly, ongoing.
The boatyard, which sees about 500 boats hauled out each year, is a "dying business," Patel says, and a dry dock at Pier 70, also leased by the Port, is only paying 3.3% of sales.
As for The Ramp, Patel tells the Chronicle, "There is something about this place, funky as it is, that hits a nerve with people. It’s a waterfront dive. It’s an every man’s hangout. Lots of music and dance. It’s an institution that, if it’s damaged or we lose it, we lose a tiny bit of what makes San Francisco San Francisco."
It is far from clear how much actual danger of closing the restaurant is in, or how willing the Port will be to negotiate.
The Port has an interest in preserving maritime uses as well as legacy businesses like this one — and just last month we learned that another landmark business, Alioto's Restaurant near Fisherman's Wharf, is closing after nearly a century in business.
Stay tuned for further developments in this dispute.