The new, big Bissap Baobab was hauled before the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control for eight hours on Wednesday, as condo neighbors are trying to deny the restaurant and bar’s beer and wine license — essentially put it out of business — over NIMBY noise complaints.
Over the course of its three San Francisco Mission District incarnations, Senegalese restaurant and nightclub Bissap Baobab has been no stranger to complicated legal problems. Bissap Baobab and Little Baobab proprietor Marco Senghor was threatened with deportation in a Trump-era immigration crackdown, the legal ramifications of which essentially cost him both businesses. But Senghor rebounded by reopening Bissap Baobab in the former Lupulandia space on Mission Street near 18th in September, though several neighbors tried to block its entertainment license over noise concerns.
The new Bissap Baobab got that entertainment license, but last month, those same neighbors came after Bissap Baobab’s alcohol license. And now Mission Local reports that those neighbors hauled Bissap Baobab into a California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control legal hearing Wednesday hoping to deny the restaurant any liquor license at all. That hearing went for eight hours, much longer than had been anticipated, per Mission Local, and a ruling won’t be handed down for as long as 30 more days.
SFGate reported last month that Wednesday's hearing would “determine whether owner Marco Senghor can gain a full liquor license for the business,” and that for the time being, “Bissap Baobab will continue to operate with an interim operating permit that allows the business to sell beer and wine.” A separate Mission Local report from last week noted that “They serve beer and wine and coconut-infused rum, but all of their cocktails are currently made with soju until the issue gets resolved.”
The legal challenge originally came from the neighboring condo homeowners association (HOA) for 2235 Mission Street. But according to Mission Local, "Only two individuals who own units remain active in the case.” And rather maddeningly, that site also notes that one of the appellants “does not presently occupy her unit.”
That appellant says that her tenant requested a 15% rent reduction because of noise that allegedly came from the new Bissap Baobab and its live music. Her original complaint from July argued that her “property will become significantly less desirable due to the loud music and late hours and the property value will diminish.”
But liquor license application consultant Elaine Olshantensky argued on Senghor’s behalf that California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) licenses are “not subject to ABC protest.” Other witnesses argued that the noise could have been from other adjacent nightclubs, and that some complaints were described hours during which Bissap Baobab was not even open.
This case is not in front of a normal court. This case is an ABC administrative hearing, though presided over by an actual judge, in this instance, Alberto Roldan. Roldan has 30 days to render a decision, and again, Bissap Baobab can continue to serve beer and wine until that decision is rendered.
Image: Joe Kukura, SFist