The 21-year-old SFPD scandal FajitaGate is rearing its head again, as a new filing in an eviction lawsuit against the SoMa restaurant the Brixton says that the eviction is just retaliation against a co-owner who won a civil settlement against some cops.
This coming Monday will be the 21-year anniversary of the incident that spawned a hilariously named SFPD scandal called FajitaGate. On the night of November 20, 2002, a bartender at Pac Heights bar Blue Light, Adam Snyder, was leaving his place of work after closing time with friend Jade Santoro, carrying a take-out box of fajitas. Three men approached them and demanded the food, and when the two refused, Snyder and Santoro were punched, kicked, and generally roughed up by the three other men.
It turned out that not only were the three other men off-duty SFPD officers, but one of them was the son of then-assistant SFPD chief Alex Fagan. It was alleged that the department tried to bury the matter, as the scandal dragged on for years. The three officers were eventually acquitted of felony assault charges, though Santoro was awarded $32,000 in a subsequent civil suit, Snyder was awarded $9,000, and the SFPD was roundly mocked in the press for a few more years afterward.
Fast forward to last month, when in a seemingly unrelated matter, a restaurant Snyder co-owns was sued by its landlord for $376,000 in unpaid back rent, according to the Chronicle. The restaurant is the Brixton across from Oracle Park (it has another location in the Marina), and the landlord in question is the SF Police Officers Association (SFPOA), which is apparently also in the real estate business.
And Snyder thinks it's no coincidence that the SFPOA wants him out. The Chronicle now reports that the restaurant group says in a legal filing that the eviction is in retaliation for FajitaGate, 21 years ago.
“It’s ridiculous that my decision to call the police for help 20 years ago continues to have ramifications today for myself, my family, our employees and our many investors — including SFPD officers who put substantial resources into this business,” Snyder told the Chronicle. “This is an organization that is supposed to represent our guardians — the people that protect us. But instead of protecting us from harm, they are perpetuating it — they’re forcing us out of business.”
No one is disputing that the Brixton is, in fact, $376,000 behind on their rent. There was a commercial eviction moratorium during the pandemic, and the Brixton’s owners, Hat Trick Hospitality, say they were advised by the SFPOA’s lawyers to not pay rent while brokering an agreement.
The Chron also spoke with independent commercial real estate brokers who say that tons of local restaurants are currently way behind on their rent, and that amnesty-type arrangements are pretty common. So maybe there is something to this landlord's refusal to work with the tenant further.
Indeed, we've seen many of these restaurant landlord-tenant disputes spill into the newspapers recently with establishments like China Live and Park Tavern. But this particular eviction lawsuit is peppered up with the spice of the decades-old police scandal FajitaGate.
Image: Andrew D via Yelp