The city of San Francisco has taken steps to put popular sandwich shop Ike’s Place out of business at its Castro location.
The Planning Department said it is issuing a $250 fine per day because the eatery has failed to obtain a permit the city now contends the restaurant needs. Ike’s Place has been open at the 16th Street shop (without that permit) since 2007.
It appears to be a classic case of bureaucratic Catch 22 – an official for the planning department admitted that the city has demanded a permit it knows will be impossible for Ike’s to obtain.
In a written statement to The Bay Citizen, code enforcement planner Kate Conner said Ike’s Place is left with few options: Stop making sandwiches or, “Relocate to a different site.”
Or Ike’s can pay the $250 a day fine, which is exactly what owner Ike Shehadeh intends to do.
“It’s harassment by the city,” said Shehadeh. “I’ll have to close down the business entirely or eat the $7,500 a month.”
He said he would rather pay the fine than put the 50 people who currently work at the restaurant out of work.
Ike’s Place has faced complaints from four upstairs neighbors ever since the restaurant gained a huge foodie following, leading to gripes about crowds, noise, trash, and smells. Shehadeh tried to appease neighbors by closing at 7 p.m. , but to no avail. The neighbors made legal threats against the building’s landlord, Dennis Drobisch, who then started eviction proceedings against Ike’s Place earlier this year.
Those proceedings stalled, allowing the restaurant to remain.
Now the Planning Department contends that the space Ike’s has occupied for nearly three years should never have been allowed to open as a sandwich shop. It was only permitted to be a “retail coffee store.” To make sandwiches, the city says, Ike’s needs a different permit.
It’s a curious claim for planning officials to make. Ike’s sublets a small section of Daimaru Sushi, which has had a permit to operate the space as a full service restaurant since 1998. Ike’s has faced a litany of inspections since neighbors started their campaign against the shop, yet only now has the city decided this permit is required.
Ike’s can apply for the permit to be the sandwich shop it already is, but – and here’s the catch – the landlord must sign the paperwork. And since the landlord is at war with Ike’s, that won’t happen.
The city knows this. “Ike's does not currently have the property owners' permission to operate at this location,” wrote planner Conner.
But while the government of San Francisco has sided against Ike’s, a growing number of folks elsewhere in the Bay Area are devouring the sandwiches. Ike’s other location in Redwood Shores has become so popular that the eatery no longer serves walk-ins – diners must make a phone reservation for a sandwich and then pick it up at an appointed time.
A third Ike’s is scheduled to open in two weeks on the Stanford University campus. Shehadeh said the school has configured a space to accommodate the restaurant’s unique needs (the bread for each sandwich is freshly baked).
“I’m eager to be somewhere where we’re welcomed with open arms,” Shehadeh said.
And if all of that isn’t enough for Ike’s Place fans, an iPhone app is in the works. Soon lunch will be just a few finger taps away. Though perhaps not in San Francisco – if the city, the landlord and those upstairs neighbors get their way.