After loads of media coverage for "vulgar fine dining" concept Hi Felicia, and just three weeks after chef-owner Imana announced a switch to an à la carte format, the Oakland restaurant is now closed for good.
The restaurant suffered a break-in and robbery Tuesday night which included a smashed front window, and an upstairs safe that was thrown downstairs, as NBC Bay Area reports. And while there are likely other financial factors involved, Imana is blaming the break-in for her decision to close Hi Felicia for good. The news, as with most things at the restaurant, was shared via an Instagram post on Wednesday.
"Last night wasn't a coincidence, it was a message to me that this chapter of my life is over," Imana writes. "To everyone who has supported me, and made this restaurant what it is, I want to say thank you."
Young, ambitious restaurateur Imana garnered plenty of press for her apartment pop-up restaurant in early 2021, which soon led to the opening of a brick-and-mortar version of Hi Felicia a year ago on 23rd and Webster streets in Oakland. Her goal was to create a new, campy, casual, and more inclusive take on fine dining, different from the hospitality spaces she had uncomfortably inhabited as a queer person of color.
While the restaurant had a distinctive vibe and a raft of fans, as well as gaining a mention in last year's Michelin Guide — Imana had made it known from the start she was shooting for a Michelin star — a bevy of negative Yelp reviews and some menu changes told a story of a nascent restaurant trying to find its footing in a precarious moment for restaurants generally.
Also, Imana was candid with ABC 7 about her finances last May saying, "I have like eight credit cards that are all maxed out, but I do own this place. Sorry Amex."
In some of those Yelp reviews, diners seemed to focus primarily on the high-priced prix fixe, which launched in April 2022 as $195/person and then was lowered in August to $125/person with a more "family-style" seven-course format. The move earlier this month to an à la carte format, as SFist noted earlier, was likely a business decision based on feedback and the delicate balance between pricing dishes and covering the real costs of food and labor.
This doesn't appear to be the end for the space at 326 23rd Street, though. Imana says in her Instagram note that she plans to open a "sleek and sexy wine bar in what was formerly Hi Felicia."
The space had played host to a monthly wine bar pop-up last year called Sluts, which grew into its own campy brick-and-mortar space across the Bay in SF's SoMa district earlier this year. And, as everyone knows, the margins on alcohol are a lot better than they are on food.
Photo by Derek Yarra/Hi Felicia