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Leo’s Oyster Bar in the Financial District. Instagram photo via @leosoysterbar.

Restaurateur Anna Weinberg Isn’t Going Down Without a Fight

On Tuesday, Alex Barreira of the San Francisco Business Times reported in a story that Anna Weinberg (Anna Weinberg Hospitality) “narrowly staved off eviction” from her FiDi restaurant, Leo’s Oyster Bar, after the issue was already resolved with her landlord, and a conditional settlement and payment plan for back rent owed were in place. 

The article didn’t mention the much bigger news: that on January 29th, 2024, Weinberg won a motion she’d filed on December 12th, 2023 to set aside and vacate her former business partner David Stanton’s $800k default judgment against her. How about that for a plot twist? 

The Business Times reported on that initial judgment last year, and though there are public documents stating that the court ruled in her favor, none of this was included in their latest story on her businesses. Documents also show she has paid Stanton $1.55M of the $1.6M company purchase price. 

Park Tavern’s spacious bar and lounge.
Park Tavern’s redesigned bar and lounge. Photo: Grady Brannan.

We already saw a media melee happen when Weinberg was evicted from Park Tavern at the end of 2023. She was initially hoping to come to a financial resolution with the landlord, but later made the difficult decision to quit. It was assuredly an arduous one to make after coming this far with a massive renovation and investment. But a debilitating financial situation became impossible to rise above, and things started to implode and unravel.

Multiple local media outlets reported on the eviction, the permanent closure, the massive back rent and attorney fees owed to her landlord, the lawsuit from her former business partner, and Stanton’s default judgment against Weinberg, basically creating an echo chamber of extremely damaging news mostly gleaned from legal documents or other publications’ stories.

The reckless part were the attention-grabbing headlines heralding that her ownership and the future of Tosca and Leo’s were also in danger, making injurious and false conclusions. Soon after the press storm, Weinberg had multiple large events at Tosca asking to cancel and requesting deposits be returned because they were concerned about it closing. As if it already isn’t hard enough to operate a restaurant in the City right now. Do you want to see Tosca close? Do you want Leo’s to go belly up? I don’t. But this latest round of “Leo’s was almost evicted!” stories certainly aren't helping.

Weinberg has been a force of hospitality in our local restaurant industry, and her energetic and stylish spaces have been the scene of many vibrant (sometimes blurry!) nights and memorable experiences for guests. It takes a certain type of person to be able to work for her, and the past few years of legal, financial, personal, and pandemic-related stressors have impacted her business operations. She is a character, and has all kinds of stories attached to her, but she’s also a longtime and high-profile restaurant operator in SF, and I think she deserves better than the negative and damaging narrative being told in the media that her businesses are finished. It’s beginning to feel targeted.

Weinberg (obviously) has some thoughts to share on all of this: “I hear this question daily. WHY is San Francisco not recovering like other cities? This is where we need to shift our attention. If we are going to rise from the ashes, we need to address the big picture. The pervasive negativity about San Francisco—the negativity we love to hate—is fueled by shortsighted reporting focused on being first with the news, and erasing our stories. Without real stories, we have nothing to care about, nothing and no one to root for. Fast, flashy, clickbait media rather than real heart-and-soul reporting is perpetuating the problem we’re trying to solve.

“The people who control the narrative need to start rooting for San Francisco again. Visitors come here for our stories, the locals love to tell them, let’s make this city live again. Every time I walk through the front door at Tosca, I feel hopeful (and kind of cool)—some places just have magic in the walls. Ken Fulk said it best: ‘We don’t own Tosca, we are the current stewards.’ 

The bar at Tosca in North Beach. Photo: ©

“Tosca belongs to San Francisco. Almost everyone who grew up here has a Tosca story. The reign of Jeanette Etheredge, the legendary nights, and celebrity antics have been the subject of stories by everyone from The New York Times to Vanity Fair, and, of course, the Chronicle. Stories that get stitched into the legend of this city, adding to its uniqueness. I’m not sure those stories would be written in the same detail, if at all, today.

“I am not everyone’s cup of tea, but I believe I have contributed and I don't deserve to have my 25-year career defined by incorrect and damaging headlines—my task now is to rebound from these. In some ways, it feels like the same struggle facing our city. This is a plea for a new narrative.

“Ultimately, I want my voice to be a positive one—my commitment to the restaurants I love and to this city continues. To those of you who control the narrative, find something you love in San Francisco. Write about it. Maybe start a moratorium on eviction stories—instead, ask, ‘How can we help?’”

Anna is right. Restaurant journalism is important, and reporting on financial misconduct, poor conditions for workers, or abuse is crucial—but that’s very different than spitballing on how badly a business may be struggling. So many of our local restaurants, especially ones located downtown, are hanging on by a piece of kitchen twine, and I don’t see how reporting on “narrowly staved off evictions” and speculating about the impending demise of a business is helpful to anyone right now. It certainly damages the reputation of the restaurant, the security of the employees, and the viability of future bookings and business. If we want to start seeing downtown rise up from the tumbleweeds, we need to read different narratives told by the media that aren’t so harmful and ultimately anti-business.

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