Mission Street bar Casements had to get new approval for live music on their back patio, despite that they’ve had live music on that patio since 2020. They did get their City Hall approval, but now their live music has a 10 p.m. cut-off time.
Most parklets in San Francisco are on the front exterior of the business’ storefront, but the Mission District’s modern Irish cocktail bar Casements went another direction. They built their “shared space” in the back. Casements had the poor fortune of opening two months before COVID shelter-in-place was declared in 2020. But by the end of 2020, Casements was able to pivot by opening an 1,800 square-foot patio out back, one which claimed ten spaces of its adjacent parking lot (as seen below).
The Casements back patio was approved under the “shared spaces” legislation, and the live music was approved under the “Just Add Music” (JAM) permit legislation. But both of those pieces of legislation will sunset March 31, 2023.
That forced Casements to seek a new “conditional use authorization” to establish a legally defined and permitted outdoor activity area, at a hearing at last Thursday’s SF Planning Commission meeting. And much like the newly reopened Bissap Boabab one block north on Mission, neighbors’ noise complaints threatened to cancel out the Casements back patio entirely.
Casements co-owner Chris Hastings tried to explain to the Planning Commission the difficulty of opening a business in that cursed year of 2020. “Things were really tight, and this patio space was absolutely one of the main reasons we were able to survive,” Hastings told the commission Thursday. “Of the nine food and beverage businesses on that (Mission Street) block, eight of them have closed or changed hands during the pandemic. And we haven’t.”
The Planning Department was recommending that Casements keep its back patio, but also wanted to cut the music off at 10 p.m. nightly, “to reduce potential noise impact for residents.”
But Casements was asking the commission to keep playing music until 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends. “It is incredibly economically difficult operationally to shut a business down at 10 p.m.,” Hastings said at the hearing, noting the patio would have to cut off seating at 8 or 8:30 p.m. He added that the Chapel (one block away on Valencia Street) is permitted to have performances until midnight, Foreign Cinema has no restrictions, and El Techo is permitted until 11:30 p.m.
But neighbors turned up at the meeting to complain about the noise. “We have finally accomplished that we don’t have the noise of prostitution and traffic,” said Monique Morrow of the Capp Beautification Group. “And then what happens? Live music.”
“It is so loud that sometimes, depending on the type of music, the building where I live seems to shake,” she added. “I have had not a single night when the music plays that it doesn’t affect my quality of life and my neighbors’ quality of life.”
A neighbor identifying herself as “Kat” accused Casements of “disregarding our repeated concerns with an overwhelming volume of patio noise after 10 p.m.”
Yet the Planning Commission did unanimously approve the Casements back patio permanently having live music — just only until 10 p.m. nightly, with that cutoff also applying on weekends, too.
“We accept a certain amount of residual noise at night, but at 10, it has to be quiet,” said Commissioner Kathrin Moore before the unanimous 5-0 vote,
Commissioner Derek Braun added, “There is a residential hotel that is directly above where the outdoor space is located. Those are some of our most vulnerable neighbors, and I want to make sure we’re respecting them.”
So Casements will be able to continue hosting live music on the back patio, though only until 10 p.m. nightly. And there will be live music at Casements this weekend, and likely most weekends going forward.
Images: Joe Kukura, SFist