Fishermen have not been able to buy bait at the Pacifica pier since a coffee shop replaced the old bait shop seven years ago. Now, the owner of Chit Chat Café on the pier is bringing frozen bait back to the 35-year-old establishment.
“Many customers ask for bait and I have to refer them to tackle shops,” explained Paul Kukielka, owner of Chit Chat Café. “We’re just responding to everyday requests.”
The Pacifica City Council approved Kukielka’s request last week for a lease amendment that would allow him to sell frozen bait if he follows all health codes. Kukielka said that should not be a problem as he will sell bait out of a separate refrigerator and not from behind the counter where food is made.
“I think it’s a good idea — it’s going to help the fishermen,” said Councilmember Jim Vreeland.
Kukielka explained that bait is an important product for his small café, which lacks customers in the winter months.
“Tourists come out there during sunny times, but fishermen come out there every day, and we’re coming up on winter,” he said.
Local fisherman Jim Killian said he would gladly buy bait from the café when the crab season begins this weekend.
“The pier should sell bait,” he said. “It was a pier before it was a café.”
Fishermen who need bait bring it with them from outside of Pacifica, buy it at a nearby 7-Eleven store or go two blocks away to Rusty Hook, the bait and tackle shop that used to be at the pier. Rusty Hook’s longtime owners Joe and Cheryl Jimno were not happy to hear news of competition coming from Chit Chat Café.
“I had that pier 20 years before they did,” said Joe. “The city wanted to improve the pier and made it explicit that there would be no bait shop. It was designed to be a coffee shop and now they are going to put a bait shop there again.”
Vreeland doesn’t agree. “If they were selling rods and reels, we would have a problem with it,” he said.
Kukielka plans to start selling bait during the next month.