2455 Fillmore Site

Blue Bottle Coffee is pushing forward with plans to combine the former Tully’s Coffee and adjacent Juicy News storefronts on the southwest corner of Fillmore and Jackson into a single space and café which would serve treats baked off-site by Tartine as well.

2455 Fillmore Plan

Standing in the way of Blue Bottle’s plans, however, is Section 718.44 of San Francisco’s Planning Code which does not permit the establishment of new Formula Retail restaurant uses within the Fillmore Street Neighborhood Commercial District.

Tully’s pre-dated the existing formula retail controls and was grandfathered as a “nonconforming” operator.  As such, Blue Bottle is seeking permission to assume Tully’s nonconforming designation and expand. And if the plan is approved, café construction will take around a month to complete, not including a seismic upgrading of the overall building which could occur at the same time and delay an opening.

The Planning Commission hearing to decide Blue Bottle’s Fillmore Street fate has been scheduled for October 15.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Notcom

    And “Formula Retail” = chains, or just chains that submit floorplans with descriptions like “Retail A”, “Retail B” and “Back of House” ??

    • Posted by Chris Brown

      Formula retail has a very specific definition under the planning code. It means any retail business with 11 or more retail locations anywhere else in the world with at least two or more common features, such as standardized merchandise, standardized decor and color scheme, standardized signage, uniform apparel, etc.

      So, yes, chains, including Blue Bottle, with 11 or more locations would fall under the definition.

      • Posted by Francine Brevetti

        do you know any further developments about blue bottle’s desire to locate on fillmore pacific heights?

  2. Posted by Sutro_Tower

    Not all chains are created (or treated) equal. Blue Bottle, like the late La Boulange are home grown success stories which the general population seems to welcome into their respective hoods. I expect this to be approved, especially since Upper Fillmore already has a mix of “formula retail” already anchoring the corridor.

    • Posted by Serge

      You must be forgetting Pet Food Express trying to open on Lombard and Divisadero. A local homegrown retailer but was met with plenty of negativity. Although I reckon the majority of the complaints were from local pet shop owners.

    • Posted by BayviewGentrifier

      Yeah, well Starbucks was a Seattle home gown success story and you won’t find much love for them in the PNW city these days 🙂

  3. Posted by Joshua

    Actually, this location needs an attraction to bring people up the hill. This proposal sounds great.

    • Posted by Conifer

      This neighborhood certainly does not need or want anything to “bring people up the hill.” There are quite enough people as it is.

  4. Posted by unlivable city

    Bluetartinebottle is opening some sort of industrial bakery operation at Bryant and Mariposa. Where the artists lofts are being pushed out once again..

    In the great tradition of Just Deserts and Le Boulange et al, it shall play out thusly: richly deserved and long overdue bust 2.0, followed by bluetartinebottle challenged trying to sell wildly overpriced flavored hot water, followed by acquisition by inbev or similar, followed by ta ta, tartine…

    • Posted by Elitist Pig

      La Boulange isn’t closing because it failed, it’s closing because Starbucks devoured it. Hardly a bust…

      • Posted by san FronziScheme

        It closed because it was TOO successful, and was starting to look like a franchise that could take over California. And once California would be conquered, then the whole Pacific Coast would follow suit, then the SouthWest, etc…

        It might never had happened, but Starbucks just couldn’t take the chance. Once a business reaches a critical mass, it’s more complicated to take over.

        Rego sold for $100M what Starbucks saw as a legitimate nationwide potential competitor.

      • Posted by jlasf

        Incomprehensible that someone couldn’t have bought the franchise and kept it alive. It was profitable and a great addition to the City. Shame on Starbucks.

        • Posted by Sierrajeff

          Yup. Even my S.O., who was a Starbucks addict (to the point of collecting their mugs for years) avoids them now, after they shut down places such as the new (and very successful) full-service La Boulange on 9th at Irving. It was a great addition to the neighborhood, always busy serving real food (not just cellophane-wrapped pastries and coffee a la Starbucks), nice sidewalk presence, etc. Now shut down, employees out of work, and a big empty storefront on 9th. Screw them, there are plenty of places to get coffee, I certainly don’t need to reward their Shkreli behavior.

        • Posted by no_ vally

          Absolutely agree this was purely a corporate greed, rape and pillage strategy by SBUX, especially because they have a history of doing the same with other potentially competitive brands. So sad to see the 24th/Sanchez location in Noe disappear, it was a weekend morning go-to. I’ve heard rumors that Pascal was able to hold on to 5 locations (Noe among them) and has plans to launch another concept at some point soon. Would love nothing more than a La Bou 2.0 that takes up where La Bou 1.0 left off…and crushes SBUX out of the state.

          • Posted by BobN

            It’s hard for me to view La Boulange as a competitor to Starbucks because whenever I ordered an espresso beverage there, it took FOREVER.

          • Posted by Sierrajeff

            Forever, really? As in, you’re in fact still waiting for it now, as we sit here?

            I never had a problem with barista times there… and I loved that La B generally presumed you wanted the coffee “for here”, serving it in porcelain (including lattes in bowls as in France), instead of just pouring all the supposedly high-value coffee into a cheap paper cup.

          • Posted by no_ vally

            La Bou was the worst sort of competitor for SBUX–one that could open a store next door and steal the price-insensitive customer who is the bread/butter of SBUX…then take even more from their wallet than SBUX ever could per visit…while leaving them happy with the experience at the end.

            I’ll always believe La Bou was an existential threat to SBUX (just as Blue Bottle & Philz are) because given a choice with 2 stores side-by-side, the high end customer would almost always choose the not SBUX alternative.

            If this were truly a corporate finance decision, SBUX could very easily have spun off La Bou as a stand-alone concept and undoubtedly sold for more than the $100mm they paid by selling to an enterprising VC or PE firm intent on achieving the 400 store domestic footprint. The La Bou stores in SF handled over 15,000 customers per day before being shut down, or about 1.5% of the SF population patronizing the concept every day…very few early stage retail concepts can boast this insane sort of traffic and store success ratio, especially at the sort of margins La Bou was pulling in. But for the $84B market cap SBUX, La Bou was just a virus that needed to be wiped out and cleared away before it became truly scale and competitive. Sad for SF and sad for La Bou loyalists.

          • Posted by BobN

            Yes, Sierrajeff, at least on one occasion. I ordered and fifteen minutes later was told they had misplaced the order. So, technically, I’m still waiting.

          • Posted by Amewsed

            Some La Bou sites now have Lemonade, which is some kind of eatery. Saw their website only since the physical place didn’t look that busy.

        • Posted by David Perez

          I just found out that a group has bought the La Boulange there on Pine (from Starbucks) and are keeping it open. I don’t know much more than that but the information is solid. Check it out.

    • Posted by Sierrajeff

      So which do you want, preservation of S.F.’s industrial economy, or preservation of cheap housing?

      It truly is impossible to please people in this city – successful hometown bakery and successful hometown coffee shop join forces to create jobs, and the response is Whaa whaa whaa.

      • Posted by Serge

        You can’t please whiners. When the economy is good, they blame the cause of the good economy. When the economy turns south, they blame the industry that was previously doing well.

      • Posted by SFrentier

        Some people just want to keep SF cheap-laid-back-loosersville. Well it’s changed. Big time. Get used to it.

    • Posted by Alai

      Wait, so an industrial bakery operation is moving in and pushing out artists’ lofts?

      Why do I get the feeling that if a developer proposed to convert a building from an industrial bakery to a bunch of apartments (“artists lofts”), you would be equally up in arms (“blue collar jobs disappearing! gentrification!”)?

  5. Posted by Sierrajeff

    Ridiculous that this is being applied to Blue Bottle, a home-grown success story. If this had been their 2nd or 3rd or 4th location in the city, it’d be OK, but because it’s their Nth it’s not?

    And BTW, I’m definitely not a Blue Bottle sycophant, but their new café at Bush & Battery is gorgeous – bright, open, clean – if this Fillmore store is meant to be anything like that, it should be welcomed.

    • Posted by Elitist Pig

      You didn’t hear? You can’t be too successful in this city.

      • Posted by Sierrajeff

        The owners should just start a new business – call it “Botella Azul” – basically selling all the same pour-over coffee and pastries, but with the size names in Spanish. Then when they max out the “formula retail” number for Botella Azul, they can open “Bouteille Bleue”, serving pour-over coffee and (French) pastries. Or “Blaue Flasche”, where lederhosen-garbed staff serve pour-over coffee and pastries. Or… well, you take my point.

        • Posted by Serge

          Genius, sir. Genius, indeed! I still can’t fathom how the city has the gumption to hate on a locally successful business. If the same policies SF has now were applied to the 19th century, Bank of America (Italy) and Wells Fargo would have ended up being nothing more than a small mom-and-pop lending club.

          • Posted by Brian M

            Well…it might be better for the world as a whole if a few of the Too Big To Fail/Fraud Cooperatives had not appeared.


    • Posted by Brian M

      If it doesn’t smell of unwashed hippies and boast decore from 1978, it is not “authentic”

      • Posted by moto mayhem

        didn’t you hear, the hipsters and communists now hate the capitalist pigs of blue bottle.

    • Posted by Chris Brown

      It is the law. It is nothing to do with whether something is “homegrown” or not. The planning code simply says 11 or more locations anywhere in the world that share two or more standardized features. This is what the “neighborhood activists” pushed for, and this is what they got.

    • Posted by Freeloader

      Maybe there should be an exception to companies founded (and still based) in SF. But since Blue Bottle is based in Oakland, to get around the rule they’d have to say that Tartine is a wholly owned subsidiary that is still based in SF. Actually, there’s only one Tartine location, so if they just brand the store as Tartine, that would get around the issue.

      However, if Blue Bottle is trying to improve their image and branding and become a corporate brand, they’d want to keep the Blue Bottle name/brand in their store… which the haters can point to to try and get this blocked.

  6. Posted by Carter

    Hippies, communists, gee, it sounds like 1969 all over again. None of you are old enough to remember, the hippies were right: the war in Vietnam was evil, equal rights for all, even gays!

    The point these days is, where are the baristas (not to mention the back office medical, dental workers) to live? And who’s gonna cut your hair?

    Peace everybody.

    • Posted by Not Bashing

      Oakland. Why is that SO horrible?

  7. Posted by simms3

    ^^^Ironically, all these laws, regulations, and fees aimed at “preserving” mom and pop businesses and regulating housing/stifling new construction of housing, all designed to keep people happy and living in SF, are doing the exact reverse and causing prices to skyrocket and the people these laws/fees are aimed at retaining are being priced out!

    You can’t make this stuff up. Literally everything signed into law or passed on as a fee on “evil rich capitalist or white collar newbies” in this city was done with some sort of good intention, whether genuinely or deviously fraudulently, and ended up having the exact reverse effect.

  8. Posted by What?

    My favorite newsstand in the city is next door. They stock all the hard to find foreign publications one could ever want and I hope they can survive a bit longer.

    • Posted by Not Bashing

      Pretty sure they moved almost a year ago, down to Union street…

  9. Posted by Philip

    As long as Blue Bottle does not mess with the “Shumate’s” mosaic at the entry door, I don’t care what they do. I wonder if they could not integrate Juicy News (similar to Cafe de la Press) rather than shut it down.

  10. Posted by curmudgeon

    I can reluctantly get behind making chains jump through conditional use hoops, but the outright prohibition of chains (as in Fillmore and Hayes Valley and I forget where else) is completely insane. As many have stated, Blue Bottle is a dynamite local business that has prospered. So we shut them down…

    The planning commission should approve (IMO) even though the application probably doesn’t quite meet the letter of the law.

  11. Posted by soccermom

    Can’t Tully’s automatically add Blue Bottle to their lease as a new roommate?

    • Posted by Serge

      Tully’s could sublease it to Blue Bottle if allowed in the agreement, but it’s unlikely that there is still an active lease.

  12. Posted by David Perez

    Tully’s bought Spinelli’s. They kept their beans, their employees and they kept the lights on. It’s how they got grandfathered as a “nonconforming” operator. When they left, they turned their keys over to the new property owners (Jackson Fillmore LLC). That was the end of October. Sorry, Blue Bottle, you’re a new Formula Retail restaurant.

    It also seems like construction has been going on there for over a month.

    • Posted by Not Bashing

      This is what exceptions are for. There is already a Starbucks and a Peet’s on this strip, ridiculous to keep a small local company out. Jane is packed to the gills every morning with people who want coffee and pastries that don’t suck.

  13. Posted by Conifer

    What did the Planning Commission decide?

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