Neighborhood says no to Lower Haight Blue Bottle coffee shop

- Dreams of expanding a popular Oakland-born coffee company have come to a grinding halt in one San Francisco neighborhood.

Dozens of neighbors told the Planning Commission that they were adamantly opposed to having Blue Bottle Coffee take up residence in the Lower Haight and the Planning Commission agreed.

Mom and pop coffee shop ‘Bean There’ used to grace the corner of Waller and Steiner for 20 years, but after a landlord dispute last year, "Bean There" was ousted.

Blue Bottle owners saw the perfect opportunity to set up shop, pouring coffee made from the company's signature single-origin beans.

"It's unbelievable and there's nothing else like it," said Supinder Bedi of Houston. "Been coming here every time I visit San Francisco."

But neighbors complained that Blue Bottle, although locally bred, was a big franchise; the next Starbucks.

They argued before the Planning Commission that there was no place for it in their neighborhood, which has developed a more residential feel over the past few decades.

Blue Bottle Coffee needed a conditional use permit from the Planning Commission because the neighborhood has a ban on retail chains with more than 11 locations. Blue Bottle has 34 stores that stretch from New York City to Los Angeles and even Tokyo.

After a raucous Planning Commission meeting with plenty of neighborhood public comment, the Commission denied the permit and ended up siding with neighbors.

Blue Bottle fans say the protesters are overreacting.

"Where did Starbucks start? I mean, Seattle? But they're on every block here," said Laura Berger.

For neighbors, it was a victory.

"I think San Francisco is the only place still where the voice of the people is heard,” said Zahra Saleh, who has owned the International Cafe on Haight Street for more than 20 years. "I just want to have more family-owned businesses."

Marc Scruggs used to be a regular at "Bean There." Now, he comes to the International Cafe. He did not support Blue Bottle because he believes the coffee company was all about the bottom line.

"The impression we got from Blue Bottle was that they wanted you in and out. It was a blow to us, somebody coming in and not having a connection to the place," said Scruggs.

That's clearly not the vibe at International Cafe, where a three piece band plays on Thursday afternoon while people leisurely sip coffee, socialize and work on computers.

We reached out to Blue Bottle for comment but did not hear back.

Meanwhile the space on Waller and Steiner remains empty. So a word to those thinking of leasing the space— if you resemble anything close to a chain, take your business elsewhere.

Up Next:


  • Popular

  • Recent

Stories You May Be Interested In - Includes Advertiser Stories