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Been There, Ate That, Got That T-Shirt

Embattled sandwich king Ike Shehadeh has created a T-shirt to promote his cause
Embattled sandwich king Ike Shehadeh has created a T-shirt to promote his cause
Sandwich king Ike Shehadeh publicizes his plight

The case of the sandwich that ate a San Francisco neighborhood has evolved into a fashion protest.

Ike’s Place, the morsel-sized sandwich shop in the Castro that has become so popular it faces eviction, has taken its fight for survival to apparel. The eatery is selling “Free Ike” T-shirts to its hungry fans, no doubt inspired by other legendary fight-the-man clothing lines, like Free Winona (Ryder), Free Mumia, and Free Willy.

Although some days he feels persecuted, restaurant owner Ike Shehadeh does not face any actual imprisonment – he isn’t an accused criminal, or a killer whale. He’s found himself embroiled in a uniquely San Francisco contretemps: he’s become a huge success and sells thousands of sandwiches each week, but four NIMBY neighbors have complained about the large crowds.

He has been closing early at 7 p.m. to assuage concerns, but to no avail. Instead the neighbors have threatened lawsuits, and recently demanded that Ike’s pay nearly a $1 million in order to stay.

Shehadeh said he is expecting a more reasonable offer that would allow the restaurant to remain, but “It hasn’t happened yet.” About 50 people will lose their jobs if Ike’s is forced to close.

That’s a grim prospect. The “Free Ike” T-shirts are a sign that the folks at Ike’s Place are trying to maintain their sense of humor, despite the ordeal. And customers seem to get the joke. The shirts sell for as little as $9.99, and some sizes are already sold out.

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