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Having operated on Castro Street since the 1960’s, the Patio Café was purchased by Les Natali in 1989. In 1992, the patio at the rear of the property was enclosed and a retractable roof was installed over the dining area (click floor plans to enlarge).

In 1999, the Patio Café was closed for remodeling and to correct a number of code violations and the Café has remained closed ever since.
While the remodeling and expansion of the Patio Café into two of the former retail spaces which front its location at 531 Castro Street have been completed since 2012, the permit for the Café’s expansion was approved in error and Natali’s application to reopen the remodeled restaurant was denied.

This week, San Francisco’s Planning Commission is slated to authorize the use of the expanded space for the Patio Café. And if authorized, the Café intends to reopen “very soon” and without another decade-long delay.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by NoeValleyJim

    This is really a great space, it will be nice to have it re-opened. Anyone remember the article about the scene there in The Weekly? I think everyone boycotted the place for a while afterwards.

  2. Posted by curmudgeon

    I’ll believe it when I see it.

  3. Posted by BernalDweller

    what curmudgeon said. What a crime this has been over all these years.

  4. Posted by dontgetit

    approved in “error” and not allowed to open? how does this happen? How was the error detected? A lot of work went into this space. It’s sad that it sat vacant for so long. Regardless of what you think of Les Natali, the reopening will be a good thing for the neighborhood.

  5. Posted by bgelldawg

    Given the length of time this place has been closed, I believe the permit issues are an excuse by the owner. As reported elsewhere, he wants to lease out the restaurant, but keep the bar and 100% of alcohol proceeds. This may be the real reason this place has remained closed.
    What are the property taxes on this building? Have they been paid?
    Has the city re-assessed the building based on the improvements?

  6. Posted by 49yo hipster

    I dunno, but someone here is loosing a lot of money. 14 years no rental income on that unit, Castro retail prime ~$4/sq ft, large space….we’re talking over $1mil in lost rental income. Dude must be very rich…or very dumb.

  7. Posted by lyqwyd

    ^^^ probably both :)

  8. Posted by CastroQueen

    From what I’ve heard, as mentioned above, Les is shamefully squatting on his liquor license and slow to open his restaurant to not cannibalize his other businesses.
    How the city and supervisors let this go on, hurting the community (both business owners and neighborhood residents) is even more disgraceful.

  9. Posted by emanon

    I’m really not trying to be obtuse or start a rant, but how are the business owner’s acts “shameful” or “disgraceful”?

  10. Posted by curmudgeon

    CastroQueen I don’t believe there is anything the city can do to compel someone to OPEN a business. This is between Les Natali and God, lol.
    If you’ve been a CastroQueen for long enough you may remember the shoe repair business that was once on the same block of Castro. (late 80’s/early 90’s is what I remember). That is it looked like a shoe repair business, and there was often a shopkeeper sitting at the counter reading a newspaper. But it was never ever actually open. It seemed like every newcomer to the neighborhood had a story of walking up to the store with shoes in hand, only to find a locked door. Not until the old guy died was his family able to sell the building and the store reopened. I think maybe it’s now, poetically, the shoe store, but I’m not absolutely certain.
    But if you own the property, you have every right NOT to use it.

  11. Posted by curmudgeon

    Emanon..Les Natali is not a particularly well loved member of the Castro community. Of course he can do whatever he wants with his businesses if he owns the property, but over the years he’s been accused of many things unfriendly, unethical, or even illegal.
    Keeping the Patio closed forever is only one of them..and it is indeed a shame to keep one of the largest and most prominent dining spaces closed…it’s a blight on the neighborhood. He has also failed to fill the neighboring retail space until very recently.
    But some of the other things that have garnered news coverage over the years have included trying to sabotage other gay bar owners in the Castro, and most notably trying to keep black people out of Badlands, his main gay bar, by asking for multiple forms of ID. This stuff is all alleged, much of it in the local gay press/letters to the editor, but he’s had a very high profile for a very long time as a not very nice guy….I don’t PERSONALLY know any of it to be true.
    The Patio just rubs salt in a wound that’s been festering for years.

  12. Posted by egg_cream_of_OCD

    The guy has been around forever. He’s not terribly sociable but can you blame him? His employees generally have nothing but good things to say about him. He has been the victim of some classic SF-style hate mongering hysteria (think boycotting Stolichnaya because of the bizarre behavior of the Russian government with respect to gay rights) and his work on the Patio building overall has been hampered by every conceivable kind of lapse, but only a few were his — such as his insistence that he run the bar portion of a reopened Patio Cafe (he’s looking for someone to just do the food portion, but everyone knows the money’s in booze). Its been a hot mess gone cold for too long, and I do agree that its a multi-dimensional failure that its not already long reopened — of the type VERY common in dysfunctional SF.

  13. Posted by EH

    But if you own the property, you have every right NOT to use it.
    Not in a location like this. Like Real Foods in Noe Valley, I wouldn’t be opposed to eminent domain being used here.

  14. Posted by levelit

    [insert Trader Joe’s here]

  15. Posted by Cody

    I don’t know the whole story on this property, but what I do know is the empty business front was hurtful to the vibrancy of the Castro. A break in the continuity of a block is not good for business.
    A couple a days ago I was in the Castro and noted that there are 2 businesses closed in the 1st block from Market St. I think the problem is that too many owners are asking for too much money for a person to have a viable business. What happened to the sense of community in San Francisco?

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