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article imageLongtime San Francisco waterfront restaurant puts off eviction

By Nathan Salant     Oct 15, 2015 in Business
San Francisco - An iconic waterfront restaurant that evoked a simpler time in San Francisco's colorful history filed for bankruptcy last Wednesday morning, just in time to head off eviction by the city's sheriff's department.
The bankruptcy filing by Sinbad's Pier 2 Restaurant -- just south of the ferry building -- halted any possible eviction by staying all legal proceedings against the restaurant until a federal judge can hold a hearing and sort out what is going on.
Authorities had planned to evict the restaurant, which has been in its waterfront location steps south of the Ferry Building since 1975, on Oct. 7 at 11:30 a.m. after a year of on-and-off legal proceedings.
The Port of San Francisco, which owns the property at Pier 2, 149 Embarcadero St., says Sinbad's is behind on rent and that it wants the space to build a park and to construct a terminal for a new Bay Area-wide ferry service being rolled out in the next couple of years.
The restaurant's owners -- brothers Charles, Duane and Tom Stinson -- have complained that there is no urgency because the port's plans for the site have been delayed.
They have pledged to stay as long as possible.
“This bankruptcy filing is yet another legal maneuver by the owners of Sinbad’s to delay return of the property to the port,” Renee Dunn Martin, the port’s spokeswoman, told the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
“We hope to appeal again to the Port Commission,” Charles Stinson said.
“In the meantime, we’re open for business," he said.
Back in the day, when the waterfront was bustling with passengers and shipping, Sinbad's actually was a big-time hangout for sailors, longshoremen and other maritime workers.
But now, with most of the shipping traffic heading across the bay to Oakland, Sinbad's is more of stopping-off place for ferry commuters, Financial District workers and tourists.
“I’ve been coming here for only eight years myself,” said Dennis Nestor of Medford, Ore., a visitor helping to care for his 92-year-old aunt from Alameda.
"But when I heard they might be closed down, I came to support them,” he said, because Sinbad's has been important to his family and his aunt over the years.
“We’ve had anniversary parties, birthday parties, special occasions here,” Nestor said.
Nestor said he and his aunt come across the bay by ferry for lunch at Sinbad's.
“We like the place and the staff -- they treat you like friends, not just customers,” he said.
Lunch diner Helen "no relation to the actress" Hayes said she used to come to Sinbad's when she worked for Southern Pacific Railroad, just across the Embarcadero from Sinbad's, and kept coming for the views and the food.
“Sinbad’s is part of San Francisco,” she said, “and I’m a sentimentalist at heart.”
But times are indeed changing.
Stinson said the restaurant is not actually bankrupt -- its 35 or so employees are still working and getting paid -- but is holding off outside legal action while it undergoes financial restructuring.
“It’s a reorganization,” he said.
“It’s an automatic stay,” said Ivan Jen, a San Francisco bankruptcy lawyer hired by Sinbad’s.
“There will be no eviction,” he said.
Actually, not for a while.
But as Tom Stinson said, the port's effort to evict Sinbad's is in line with the rash of changes that have sent residential and commercial rents soaring and forced many longtime residents to abandon San Francisco.
"They are throwing out the past to bring in the future," Tom Stinson said.
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