San Francisco still trying to jazz up Fillmore district

High-end jazz restaurants in the low-income Fillmore district are pouring money into marketing efforts in hopes of increasing interest in the floundering businesses.

The promotions have cost $50,000 in public funds, and $35,000 more is set to be spent on a logo, marketing slogan and banners.

The Fillmore was home to the West Coast’s most vibrant jazz scene until redevelopment efforts in the 1950s and 1960s devastated music venues.

Since 1995, city and redevelopment officials have tried to bring jazz back to the area through a $15 million campaign funded by redevelopment profits.

The efforts have focused heavily around the subsidized opening of four jazz-themed restaurants on Fillmore Street: Rasselas Jazz Club, Sheba Piano Lounge, 1300 on Fillmore and Yoshi’s Jazz Club and Restaurant.

But the businesses have struggled because of marketing problems and because they’re generally too expensive for the low-income area, city consultants reported in May. That prompted officials to pour $3.3 million more into the eateries through low-interest loans.

That money had been earmarked to convert an abandoned Muni substation on Fillmore Street into a jazz facility.

City-led efforts to convince SFJAZZ to use the substation for concerts and festivals failed because the building was too small for the nonprofit, and it plans to build a jazz facility in the Hayes Valley neighborhood, according to Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Fred Blackwell.

Earlier this year, the Redevelopment Agency hired Traina Public Relations to help promote the Fillmore Street restaurants.

The $49,999 contract covered $24,000 in public relations fees, $10,500 in print advertising and $1,000 to dine journalists to help promote the restaurants, agency documents show.

On Tuesday, agency commissioners unanimously voted to increase the contract by $35,000.

That money will pay for a new brand name and logo for the Fillmore district and for production of promotional banners, agency documents show.

Blackwell said the branding campaign will benefit the entire corridor, and he’s optimistic that the restaurants will succeed.

“These restaurants are important for the economic vitality of the corridor,” Blackwell said. “What we’re doing is supporting those restaurants, supporting the corridor and fortifying our original investments [in the restaurants].”

jupton@sfexaminer.com

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