Last year Grub Street broke the story that Chipotle, the Mexican formula fast food chain, had inked a lease for the space that had been Home Restaurant, empty since 2011, at the corner of Market/Church/14th Streets. Opposition to the chains incursion into the Gayborhood was immediate.
Merchants and neighbors started a Change.org petition that garnered hundreds of signatures to say, ‘thanks, but, no thanks.’ Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association (DTLA) came out against while its sister org, Merchants of Upper Market Castro (MUMC), approved the idea. Result? Stalemate.
Chipotle now has started their own petition and public relations campaign to woo neighbors and local merchants to their cause.
So far they’ve amassed 29 local merchants to add their voice to their call to let the ban on formula chain eateries be lifted so the conglomerate can open in the long dead space.
Neighborhood citizen groups have also been approached and Chipotle’s biggest champion, Sup. Scott Wiener, has also been working diligently on their behalf to make the chains invasion into the neighborhood happen as soon as possible. Chipotle has also been having ‘Pop Up’ styled mini events at the corner offering their wares to citizens attempting to woo them with their culinary delights.
For those unfamiliar with Chipotles story it’s based in Denver, started by a former San Francisco Stars chef, Steve Ells, who was inspired by our classic Mission styled burritos. Armed with our City’s mainstay for its base dish he amassed a whiter version of the classic Mexican Mission menu and began his quest to conquer America one shopping mall at a time.
The new space on Church & Market will be a bit of a break out for the usual Chipotle formula. It will be their first, heavily urban, sit down, eatery with wait staff. They’re hoping to use it as a test spot to see if this new configuration will work for them and allow them to start expanding into neighborhoods around the country that aren’t their ‘traditional’ type of markets. Here is how they envision the space to look post renovation.
To be fair to Chipotle, as large chains go, they’re at the top of the heap when it comes to social awareness and are on the record for being anti-industrial farming and committed to many social causes including supporting full LGBT equality.
Those opposed say letting them open at such a highly visible corner sets a bad precedent and will signal a breach in the Castro’s committment to local, small owned, unique businesses. They also point out the four other, long established, family owned Mexican restaurants within blocks of the new Chipotle will be harshly punished financially by the chains presence.
Supporters retort the point is moot as the space needs filling and the chance of a small local business going in that massive space is next to impossible. Home closed due to liquor license irregularities. Boston Market who’d been in that space previously didn’t last as their product wasn’t up to snuff and the original restaurant, the infamous 24 hour, Church Street Station & Crows Nest Bar closed in the mid 90′s after its owner retired and moved to Florida.
San Francisco leads the nation in resistance to chain retail and fast-food chains. The Castro has been especially successful in keeping them out with few exceptions. Chipotle’s petition has so far about 250 signatures while the opposition has 500. As this continues on its merry way we’re sure to see an increase in rhetoric from both sides of this issue.
Chipotle remains optimistic of their chances. They expect to be scheduled for a Planning Commission hearing over the summer, and construction would then take about six months after that. So we are likely looking at a 2014 opening if it’s approved