A booth at Hapa Ramen. Photo by Erin Conger.
While I was stuck sitting on the tarmac for a couple hours in Cozumel on Saturday (fun times, thanks United), I checked in on Twitter and read the “whoa, dude!” news that chef Richie Nakano was no longer a part of ~HAPA RAMEN~, his project that he has built up over the past five years, finally consummating in a brick-and-mortar location that opened four months ago in the Mission.
Unfortunately Nakano was at odds with his business partner, tech investor Owen Van Natta (who owns Hapa Ramen and the brand—it ends up Nakano sold it in July 2014 for $20K) and director of operations Deborah Blum (who is working with Van Natta on the upcoming Citizen Fox), and the wheels obviously came off the bus.
What has followed is a #hapagate level of social media posts about the shituation, and it’s hard to tell in publicized laundry-airing like this what exactly went down: was Nakano fired, did he quit, were his food costs too high, were management demands unreasonable? Both sides have their versions.
What we do know is Hapa Ramen is now closed, and the partners have other plans for the space. (They have a full liquor license, so you know they’re going to put that to work.) It’s tough for the Hapa Ramen crew who decided to leave, but hopefully they all land somewhere soon. As for the ones who stayed, in a statement by Blum and Van Natta, they say: “Hapa staff was not fired. All but two of Hapa’s line cooks are currently employed by the business; today they’re doing prep work for a tasting related to the concept that will replace Hapa. The management also extended an offer of income to Hapa’s top servers and the kitchen staff to support them during the restaurant’s period of closure.” Again, who really knows.