The Roosevelt Tamale Parlor on 24th Street near York posted a sign outside its door that said it would be shutting down by the end of this coming Sunday, December 6.
The owners cited “personal health issues” and the “shrinking restaurant labor pool” for the closure, saying the low supply of workers has “fueled unsustainable wage expectations,” a problem Mission Local has written about before for storefronts on Valencia and Mission.
“We are losing a large part of our kitchen staff, and replacing them is too expensive,” said Aaron Presbrey, one of the restaurant’s owners. “We can’t sustain the place with the current wage expectations.”
Presbrey said that although “business has been steady,” an exodus of restaurant workers who are no longer able to afford the city’s high rents has made it difficult to run a full service restaurant that is profitable. As a result of the growing wealth gap, he believes that minimum wage jobs have been stigmatized.
“People don’t want to work for for minimum wage anymore, even though that amount has been raised,” he said. “But if you pay more than that, how is a small business supposed to sustain itself? There’s only so much you can charge for tamales.”
The Roosevelt Tamale Parlor has changed ownership several times since it first opened on 24th Street nearly 93 years ago, and has been in the hands of current owners Aaron Presbrey and Barry Moore for the past three years. Though the restaurant could qualify for financial assistance under Proposition J, the legacy business historic preservation fund that San Francisco voters approved last month, Presbrey said “it’s not enough.”
Under Proposition J, appointed legacy businesses who have existed for 30 or more years qualify to receive $500 per full-time employee from an allocated city fund. But with a lack of employees, Presbrey said that the legislation will not benefit his business.
“As great as Prop. J is, it will not make it viable for us to stay here,” he said. “It’s a sad thing to see happen, but it’s a result of the current economy of this city.”
The store owners said the decision had nothing to do with their landlord, who they said has been “nothing but reasonable and fair.” The owners also hope to bring their gravy and salsa to retail in the future, and thanked their customers for years of support.
The full letter is below:
Due to a combination of factors including personal health issues and a shrinking restaurant labor pool which has fueled unsustainable wage expectations, we have been forced to close the brick and mortar location of the Roosevelt Tamale Parlor. This decision was in NO way influenced by our landlord who has been nothing but reasonable and fair with us.
Although this may seem sudden to you, that is only because we have had to keep this agonizing decision making process private in order to ensure that we didn’t prematurely eliminate any options.
For those of you who crave the house gravy or the table salsa, we do hope and plan to bring you many of the flavors you have come to love in jars at retail in the near future.
We would like to thank all of you who supported us and communed with us as we steered this Grande Dame through her golden years. We would also like to think she was as great at her passing as at any other point in her illustrious, long and full lifetime.
To keep up with future developments: facebook.com/EatAtTheRoosevelt
To contact us: EatAtTheRoosevelt@gmail.com
With sincerest gratitude,
Aaron and Barry
This story has been updated.