Marco Senghor, owner of Bissap Baobab

Beloved community member pleading ‘not guilty,’ says he ‘looks forward to his day in court’


The owner of Bissap Baobab, a beloved Senegalese restaurant and dance club at 19th and Mission, was arrested two weeks ago for allegedly “illegally obtaining” his United States citizenship, according to a Facebook post the owner, Marco Senghor, wrote Tuesday.

“I am going to plead not guilty and fight these charges,” wrote Senghor, who is from Senegal. “I’ve hired a top defense attorney to represent me and I look forward to my day in court.”

He said the future of Bissap Baobab is uncertain. For two decades, the club and restaurant has served as a local cult favorite of sorts, known for its dancing scene and, more recently, its unique Senegalese food menu. “… but I am dedicated to preserving it,” he wrote. “I will keep you informed as my case moves forward.”

On Wednesday morning, Senghor declined to answer questions, citing his unclear legal situation.

The Acting United States Attorney for Northern District of California, Alex G. Tse — a former San Francisco deputy city attorney — is charging Senghor with “Procurement of Citizenship Contrary to Law” and “Procurement of Citizenship for a Person Not Entitled to Citizenship,” according to federal court filings.

Senghor is being represented by defense attorney Jeffrey L. Bornstein of Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP.

The charges are a tragic setback for Senghor, who only last October purchased the restaurant’s building at 3372 19th St. from Facebook executive Owen Van Natta for $1.6 million, ensuring the restaurant could stay there for good. “I’m excited to feel like I’m at home,” he told Mission Local following the purchase.

Senghor and his establishment have been an important part of the Mission and Bay Area community. 

Bissap Baobab “is a gathering place for lots of different types of groups with great music and great food,” said Gwyneth Borden, director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. “It’s shocking and unprecedented that the president would target such an upstanding citizen of the community.”

She said Senghor’s news has been making its way through the local restaurant community. She said she knew little of Senghor’s case — mentioning only that it appeared to be a process-related issue — “but what was presented to me doesn’t make sense.”

Borden noted that her organization has been talking about contacting Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s office to see if the Congresswoman can help, as she done in the past with visa-related issues in the local restaurant community. 

“It’s been a really trying time for the industry, an industry that’s been dominated by immigrants,” Borden said. “The reason why San Francisco’s restaurant industry is so diverse is that people come from all over the world.”

“This example sends a chilling message to all immigrants around here,” she said.

Julian Mark

Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

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25 Comments

    1. What you’re really saying is,”don’t live if you can’t pay for air”. Check your privilege, your empathy time share needs renewal-

  1. The US Attorney doesn’t file to revoke a citizenship grant for no reason or just to harass immigrants. The time spent on one of these revocations would easily result in several simple deportations of “undocumented immigrants” instead.

    There must be some significant underlying crime or misrepresentation involved. The fact that the reporter hasn’t discolosed it is a clear indication of bias, laziness, or both.

    1. The federal indictment is sealed and the subject has, for obvious reasons, chosen not to talk.

      Might want to check your facts, Jack.

      Best,

      JE

      1. Where does it say the indictment has been sealed? Why would that be the case? He’s been publically charged. There’s no reason for a sealed indictment, which is typically before someone has been arrested.

        1. It says that in both the breaking story and the follow. I don’t think a sealed indictment is all that uncommon. Certainly the charges will come out as the case proceeds.

    2. “The US Attorney doesn’t file to revoke a citizenship grant for no reason or just to harass immigrants.” Are you sure? There have been several recent similar cases which involved long term residents with professional jobs and no criminal records.

  2. A Senegalese name Marco!!!!!, give me a break … that is most certainly NOT, I repeat NOT a Senegalese name . This guy does not look nor have a Senegalese name.

    1. Well, his father was a Senegalese diplomat and his great uncle was the president of the country. They both had the same last name, so why don’t you bring it up with them?

      Best,

      JE

    2. Then you should launch and investigation into his great uncle, nobel prize nominee, LEOPOLD Senghor. Sheesh, you must get crazy with all the asians girls named Esther and Latinos with named Ivan.

    3. Don’t be an idiot – his name is Marc-Olivier Senghor – his mom is French, his relatives are very famous Senegalese people so you should learn a thing or two – he shortened his name to Marco for the ease of Americans…

  3. Oh, Boo Hoo. Another criminal escaping prosecution for two decades. Let’s turn a blind eye–as we have been doing. Our law enforcement and judiciary have become a joke.

    1. In this country, people are innocent until proven guilty. Might want to bone up on that before bemoaning our law-enforcement and judiciary.

      Best,

      JE

    2. Please who love seeing others suffer under an authoritarian policy are always surprised when authoritarianism comes for them. May the boot be on your neck next

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