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Hamburger Mary's -- Pro position


By Les Natali - Posted on 20 May 2014

Announcing the Marriage of Hamburger Mary's and the Patio Cafe

By Les Natali

Two iconic, historic, cutting-edge, LGBT-friendly institutions for over 30 years in San Francisco, Hamburger Mary's on Folsom Street and the Patio on Castro Street, are joining together to open a new “Hamburger Mary's at the Patio Cafe.”

The original Hamburger Mary's opened in 1972 and the Patio Cafe opened in the 1960's. Both were gay-owned and operated and had a largely gay and lesbian clientele from San Francisco, the Bay Area, and tourists from around the world. Both establishments have been closed over a decade and both have been sorely missed.

After the original Hamburger Mary's closed in 2001 the owners granted licensing agreements to open Hamburger Mary's in other cities. Today there are 3 “Mary's” in California (West Hollywood, Palm Springs and Long Beach), and there are a total of 12 Hamburger Mary's in the U.S. There is also a Mary's in Berlin. Each “Mary's” is locally owned and operated, each one is different, and each is operated as a neighborhood restaurant. All “Mary's” owners pride themselves on being involved in their community and every “Mary's” gives back to their community. Mary's bingo events, for example, have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the collective of Mary's restaurants has raised nearly one million dollars for local charities.

Because Hamburger Mary's has 12 locations in the U.S. the San Francisco planning department considers it (and any retail establishment with 11 or more locations) to be “formula retail.” Therefore we need to show that Mary's at the Patio Cafe is “necessary or desirable” for, and “compatible with the neighborhood or community.”

It is arguable whether any new restaurant is “necessary” in San Francisco because San Francisco has over 4,000 restaurants. However we believe “Mary's at the Patio” is both “desirable” for and “compatible” with the Castro neighborhood and the community.

Hamburger Mary's is not a chain or formula retail store like Starbucks, Walgreen's, Chipotle or the fast-food restaurants which have thousands of locations and which are all alike. “Hamburger Mary's at the Patio Cafe” will be a one-of-a-kind, locally owned and operated full-service restaurant and bar with reasonably-priced comfort food and cocktails, and it will have an interior décor incorporating the eclectic, friendly atmosphere of the original Mary's on Folsom Street.

“Mary's at the Patio” will be a lively and vibrant business and it will bring back life to the Patio Cafe which has been closed far too long. Bringing Mary back home to San Francisco and to the Patio Cafe will be desirable for the LGBT community, the Castro neighborhood, and San Francisco.

We need to show the planning department we have neighborhood support to open Mary's at the Patio Cafe. Please email your support to John Kevlin at JKevlin@reubenlaw.com

I’m stunned that five people on the Planning and Land Use Committee are trying to block the opening of Hamburger Mary’s at the Patio--and doing it for the flimsiest of reasons!. The opening of Mary’s is both desirable and necessary for our community. It’s desirable because the vast majority of people in the community want it to open—I have yet to meet someone who opposes it (whether they be residents or visitors of the community). And it’s necessary because it’d probably be successful (it’s a good business model—and that would mean that consumers would generally love it), it would create about forty GOOD PAYING jobs, and it’d bring more money into the community—and this could all potentially happen within a matter of months, if not for the PLUC! What the PLUC is doing relying on an arbitrary definition for a retail formula chain (why 11, and not 14, 29, or 112? Look to WHY the law passed, not just to the arbitrary definition set), and an arbitrary definition of “necessary”. What they ought to be doing is looking to: whether the business is likely to treat their employees well (will the employees be making good money, for example?), whether the business is likely to bring a lot of money into the community, whether people in the community will like what the business has to offer, and so on. Don’t just shut it down, and cross your fingers and hope that something else will open up there.

jameyfrank's picture

My partner and I were DELIGHTED to see the proposal for the old Patio space! We miss Hamburger Mary's in SoMa, and I've also enjoyed the one in Portland. This would be a very fun venue, and a great space to have it in. Also, a great, casual community group meeting place, too, with enough space.
There is Spirit of the Law, and Letter of the Law. We should definitely make an exception here. It's not like it's a MacDonalds!
Otherwise, it'll just end up another bank, realtor or pharmacy, like the awful Noe and Sanchez at Market corners. Mr. Natali did a very nice job renovating the space, and it deserves a fun INEXPENSIVE restaurant.

Brian Key's picture

We love the uniqueness of SF, and it is why we live here. The uniqueness of SF is not lost upon us. Choose your metrics: a world of 200 countries, a country of 50 states (3,141 counties of which 58 are in CA), how do you define "formula retail"? SF neighborhoods have chosen a standard of 12, which by any measure, is inappropriately low. Moving here, we were inspired by the tolerance and freedom that SF inspires. Hamburger Mary’s has 13 locations (12 U.S., 1 Germany) and does not remotely resemble McDonald's (14,000 U.S., 33,000 total) by any measure. We want this future Hamburger Mary’s to reinforce the values of the Castro, which it will do with local ownership and local employees, promoting the tolerance and freedom which inspired us to move here.