By Constantine Mittendorf
Today, Sinbad’s restaurant looks like a shipwreck next to San Francisco’s Ferry Building. A demolition crew is on site and Sinbad’s is in bankruptcy court. The classic restaurant-bar recently lost a series of legal battles that ultimately shut it down after 40 years of continuous operation.
To sum up what happened, Sinbad’s had been operating since the mid-1970’s. With its stunning views and location on Pier 2 at the foot of Market Street, it had a mixed clientele of locals and tourists. In turn, it paid rent to the City of San Francisco. Eventually due to population growth in the Bay Area, the City decided to expand the number of ferry terminals serving the City’s Financial District. The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission held public hearings in 2012 about the plan to expand the ferry terminals and remove Sinbad’s. Despite being notified, Sinbad’s didn’t show up. Hearing no objection from Sinbad’s, the agency decided that a new ferry terminal was a good plan, Sinbad’s would have to go, and Sinbad’s even signed an agreement to vacate the property by the end of 2014. The plan was for demolition to start in March 2015 to pave the way for a new ferry terminal.
Two years quickly went by, Sinbad’s reneged on the deal, and it refused to leave. After some attempts at negotiation, Sinbad’s sued the City for allegedly acting in bad faith and the City filed an eviction lawsuit. Sinbad’s fought the eviction, but lost a jury trial in July 2015.
However, Sinbad’s refused to go quietly. In fact, the restaurant operated for several more months despite losing the jury trial. It stayed open until the Sheriff’s department announced that it would physically intervene and shut the restaurant down in mid-October 2015. On the dramatic day of the eviction, Sinbad’s filed for bankruptcy, effectively removing jurisdiction from the Sheriff to enforce the eviction. This meant that Sindbad’s didn’t have to close its doors, and it stayed open even longer.
After stalling almost a year past the original agreed upon closure date, proceedings in federal bankruptcy court finally forced its hand. Sinbad’s made its last call in the end of November, 2015. Today it is being bulldozed and creditors are trying to mop up the mess.
Recent filings reflect Sinbad’s claims only around $10,000 in cash on hand and several auctions of fixtures, furnishings, and equipment (“FFEs”) have netted less than $4,500. This pales in comparison to the claimed liabilities over $1,000,000. The bankruptcy administrative costs for this case alone are over $30,000, and Sinbad’s claims it cannot pay.
With the former restaurant literally in shambles, the City finally got what it wanted — minus the back-rents owed to the City. In that respect, it sure looks like Sinbad’s left without paying the bar tab.