The freaky tiki bar Trad’r Sam is by all accounts the oldest continuously operating tiki bar in SF, but it’s currently “closed until further notice,” and court records show a hurricane of a legal battle is underway for control of the establishment.
Long before there was a Tonga Room at the Fairmont Hotel, the Richmond District tiki bar Trad’r Sam was putting paper umbrellas and excessive garnish on their Polynesian-themed cocktails, starting in 1937. (The first Trader Vic’s opened in 1934 in Oakland, though under the name “Hinky Drinks,” so people can argue over which was really the Bay Area's first tiki bar).
But now nearly 90 years later, there is clearly trouble in paradise. Broke-Ass Stuart reports that Trad’r Sam has closed indefinitely, and SFist can confirm court documents showing a legal battle currently afoot over control of the 86-year-old home of the mega-cocktail Scorpion Bowl.
This spilled out into the public after a video was posted to Reddit Tuesday showing the Trad’r Sam storefront padlocked, with a hand-scrawled sign on the door saying “Closed until further notice. Trad’r Sam does not have a dedicated website, and the third-party website listed on their social media is clearly defunct. Their Instagram has not been updated since 2020, and their Facebook page, which has many tagged posts from customers, does not have any posts from the actual business in more than a year.
SFist’s calls to Trad’r Sam’s listed phone number indicate the line is currently disconnected.
One commenter on the Reddit thread noted, “It’s a complicated story involving a family infighting over the bar. Stopped in today — when the door was open — and two people inside said they were renovating. I assume the other side of the family took it over and are hopefully going to keep it going."
A search of SF Superior Court documents seems to confirm this version of events, as a case called Dorothy Riedel et al vs. John Munguia et al has been in litigation since August 2020. The first filing in the case names Trad’r Sam as “a bar at 6150 Geary Boulevard,” which is Trad’r Sam’s address, so we’re clearly talking about the same Trad’r Sam here. Dorothy Riedel is named as a defendant who “is a two thirds owner of the Bar and (liquor) Licenses,” and plaintiff John Munguia is listed as “one third owner.” The filing adds that “Defendant demanded that plaintiffs provide to him a 50% ownership,” so at first glance, that seems to be the crux of this conflict.
There are more than three years’ worth of legal filings back and forth in the case, but the latest ruling was issued just this past Monday. That filing states that “After a five-day bench trial, the Court found Riedel liable to Munguia for elder abuse, conversion, and breach of fiduciary duties and awarded Munguia $172,007.00.”
This may confirm the Reddit post that said “the other side of the family took it over,” as that financial settlement may represent an additional ownership share in the bar. Or there may be more legal proceedings or appeals ahead. So perhaps Trad’r Sam will reopen, under previous or new management, or perhaps there’s another typhoon of legal filings and courtroom drama ahead before you can get another Singapore Sling at Trad’r Sam.
Image: Kevin Y. via Yelp