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.