An Oakland Restaurant Wants to Employ Nonviolent Ex-Offenders

Social entrepreneur Zorina Price is crowd-funding to open Zys_Oakland, a vegetarian restaurant dedicated to giving formerly incarcerated people a second chance.

Finding employment after you’ve been released from prison can be extremely difficult. It’s led to a campaign called “Ban the Box,” which seeks to make prior convictions something that hiring coordinators can no longer ask prospective employees about. But rather than wait for a slow-moving legislature to take up the cause, one Oakland entrepreneur has a better idea.

Zorina Price wants to open a vegetarian restaurant called Zys_Oakland that will employ non-violent ex-offenders, and she’s launched a Kickstarter to that effect. The goal is $110,000, and she’s got $15,000 so far.


Price has extensive experience in the hospitality industry, most recently a stint at La Mar Cebicheria. It was while letting a formerly incarcerated employee go, and subsequently hearing that the individual had gone back into the prison system, that she decided to combat recidivism through food. In a press release, Zys_Oakland says, “The project’s intention is to create a sustainable alternative to a life iniquity by providing access to economic stability via stable employment.”

Zorina Price

Noting that one in four Americans has a criminal record, two out of three ex-offenders will be back in prison within three years, and that the stigma and hardship fall disproportionately on people of color, Price understands that social justice is impossible without economic justice.

Consequently, Zys_Oakland will have two other notable facets. One is a dedication to paying above-market wages, both to ensure a better experience for customers and to make sure that the staff can enjoy a little economic security. The other is an incremental improvement in the way people eat, as Zys_Oakland pledges to use sustainable ingredients with minimal transportation costs and in keeping with the California harvest cycle.

Based on the awards the Kickstarter lists for the various tiers of support, it seems Zys_Oakland aims to open in summer 2018. Check it out.

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