Permit Me, Please
Restaurateurs need a great many things. But in this city, the Holy Grail these days is the permit. You need a clutch of them to operate, and they had better be in order. Even if they are, they can be challenged and appealed — a process that costs everyone time and money.
Take Orocco, the “East-West supper club” that opened recently on outer Geary. According to co-owner Michael Tieu, the city granted the restaurant a “conditional entertainment permit,” which allowed the place to host live jazz bands.
But the Jordan Park Improvement Association took the matter to the Board of Permit Appeals, which has now forbidden Orocco to offer live music until it finds access to a parking lot from which to operate its valet service.
“They're afraid we're going to turn into something like a South of Market nightclub,” Tieu says. Recently he gave concerned neighbors a tour of the restaurant, but so far nothing is settled. Orocco is interested in making a deal with a nearby Wells Fargo bank for after-hours use of its parking lot, but the bank, too, seems to be nervous about the neighbors. The neighborhood association has offered to support Orocco's use of the Wells Fargo lot, Tieu claims, if the restaurant will promise never to apply for a dance-hall permit. Will that solve the problem? Tieu thinks it might.
On 24th Street in Noe Valley, Miss Millie's, a new vegetarian place that succeeds the Meat Market Coffeehouse, goes before the Planning Commission on Feb. 15 to apply for a conditional use permit that will allow the restaurant to offer full table service. At the moment Miss Millie's is operating under the self-service permit that owner Gary Rizzo “inherited” from the coffeehouse: Customers must order at the counter, he says, and the staff then serves the food.
“The funny thing is that this space is technically zoned for fast food,” Rizzo notes. “Theoretically, McDonald's could take over this place without even having to go to the planning commission.”
Rizzo thinks that the addition of full table service at Miss Millie's will have no real effect on noise and congestion in the area; if anything, it will make meals a little more leisurely.
Tower Takes Manhattan
The peripatetic Jeremiah Tower was recently “[o]ff to New York again, this time to receive an award for Stars Restaurant at the 'From Mind to Menu' Visionary Awards.” Read all about it in the latest issue of Jeremiah Tower's Dining and Travel Guide (available at Stars), along with JT's take on some of NY's tonier food spots.
By Paul Reidinger