Sinbad’s staying put as legal fight begins

Mike Koozmin/SF ExaminerSinbad's restaurant.

Mike Koozmin/SF ExaminerSinbad's restaurant.

An old-school San Francisco eatery will continue waterfront meal service past an agreed-upon expiration date, meaning The City could be on the hook for fines from state agencies.

It’s now a month past time for the Port of San Francisco to have torn down Pier 2, a demolition agreed to three years ago with the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, the state agency that oversees the waterfront.

Standing in the Port’s way of removing the aging wooden planks — in part so that a new commuter ferry terminal can be built — is longtime restaurant Sinbad’s Pier 2, which has occupied the prime Embarcadero location near the Ferry Building since the 1970s.

Sinbad’s survived the Loma Prieta earthquake, the destruction of the Embarcadero Freeway and the worldwide economic downturn, but not always smoothly: The restaurant fell into arrears with the Port on its rent in 2012.

To fulfill its pledge to the BCDC to demolish the pier, the Port is now moving to evict Sinbad’s, and sent the restaurant a 30-day notice to leave on March 21.

But Sinbad’s is staying put — and is fighting back.

On March 25, attorneys for the restaurant and its co-owners, the Stinson brothers, filed a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court asking for a judge to intercede.

The suit also alleges, among other things, that the Port lied about the restaurant falling behind on its rent and spilling sewage into San Francisco Bay.

Sinbad’s also claims that in the early 2000s, then-Mayor Willie Brown promised the restaurant would be allowed to stay “in perpetuity” until the ferry terminal construction begins.

Reached at the restaurant Monday, co-owner Tom Stinson deferred all comment to his attorney, Robert F. Kane. Kane did not reply to a Monday email requesting comment.

Port officials had no comment on the lawsuit.

Pier 2 must be demolished so that the Water Emergency Transportation Authority can construct a bigger ferry terminal.

Tearing down the building that houses Sinbad’s would also allow the Port to comply with a 1975 development plan that calls for greater public access and visibility along the waterfront.

In recent statements following the Port’s announcement that Sinbad’s had to close by March 21, co-owner Stinson has argued that the restaurant should be allowed to stay on until the ferry terminal construction begins in 2016.

However, that was after Stinson initially agreed to close the restaurant. In February 2012, Stinson pledged to cooperate with the plans to vacate Pier 2, and told the BCDC that “when we get to that time period, I’m sure that we can find other means to give a good planning process and get [a new location] in place.”

Port officials agreed to extend a Dec. 31, 2014, deadline to March, but have since dug in and refused more extensions.

Stinson has also argued that the BCDC could agree to an extension, but BCDC officials are also standing firm.

In a March 26 letter, BCDC enforcement analyst Maggie Weber warned both the Port and Sinbad’s that they could face fines of up to $30,000 if the restaurant remains through the summer. Sinbad’s has used the courts before, but to fight for its reputation.

In 2012, the eatery sued popular Web site Yelp over the restaurant’s 1½-star rating, alleging that positive reviews were “not being shown” at “serious loss of business and public relations.”

A judge tossed the suit, court records show.

The restaurant now enjoys a two-star rating.

Bay Area NewsEmbarcaderoPort of San FranciscoWatefront

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