The sun has set on the beloved pupusa spot Sunrise. And, it has also set for pizzeria Pi Bar and the Laotian eatery Hawker Fare.
On Sunday, days after Pi Bar ended its 14-year run via Instagram, Hawker Fare and Sunrise served their last suppers. The closures are a drop in the bucket for a slew of pandemic closures in the neighborhood, according to SF Chronicle data analysis that shows the Mission lost 100 places in 2020 and 2021, the second-most for any neighborhood citywide. Only downtown topped it, with 150 closures.
The pandemic proved insurmountable for Sunrise, which also experienced troubles in better times. Nevertheless, for years the casual restaurant at 3126 24th St. successfully lured in customers hungry for loroco and cheese pupusas during breakfast or lunch.
“I’m really sensitive right now,” owner Alba Guerra said in Spanish, choking up. “I had it for 18 years.”
By Monday mid-afternoon, the light-blue restaurant’s front door was shut, and the outdoor tables were nowhere in sight. Guerra was still fielding calls on Sunrise’s landline, “because some customers don’t know we’ve closed yet.”
Guerra declined to add more details about the restaurant’s closure for now, citing the need to tie up loose ends and her emotional state.
Still, it’s clear that money has been an issue over the past five years, starting when Guerra’s landlord, Andrew Kong, increased rent by $3,000 a month in 2018. In a previous interview with Mission Local in 2020, Guerra said the pandemic tanked Sunrise’s sales to $1,000 per week, leaving her far short of her $7,800 monthly rent. Just after the pandemic started in 2020, Guerra said she was $30,000 in debt due to landlord troubles, and she feared closure.
The city awarded Guerra a $7,500 Resiliency Fund grant in 2020, but that went quickly after the owner bought new equipment she needed for SF New Deal, a pandemic-borne program that partnered struggling restaurateurs with food gigs to serve Covid-19 patients. Years earlier, Sunrise also received a $150,000 SF Shine Business Grant to pay for new equipment and refurbish her restaurant.
The Sunrise owners alleged then that Kong had failed to keep the building up to code and the restaurant experienced housing code violations, like eroded drywall and flooding.
Guerra established Sunrise in 2005, and it’s now wedged between other Mission mainstays Adobe Books and La Reyna Bakery. Over the years, it became a neighborhood favorite for its casual atmosphere and delicious food, and it participated in Calle 24 Latino Cultural District programming and MAPP poetry readings. Guerra used the space to host events from other organizations, and donated some proceeds back to them. The Salvadoran immigrant’s pupusas inspired this video.
Pi Bar announced its adieu on Jan. 26 in an Instagram post, which divulged that a new owner would take over the space.
Pi Bar was not immediately available for comment.
The nearly 14-year-old pizza shop and craft brewery used to dole out $3.14 slices (get it?) and offer a wide selection of local beer on tap. Its happy hour, as a nod to the name, began at 3:14 on the dot.
The shop was founded three years after owners Rich Rosen and Jennifer Garris met one fateful night at Anchor Brewing, as Mission Local previously reported. Later, Rosen met the pizzeria’s original chef, Joe Lee, who used to tend bar at Zeitgeist. Before its buzzing opening in 2009, the group held memorable test-run openings for friends and family that had Rosen “scared shitless,” and led to many trial-and-error pies that wound up in the trash.
The New York-style pizzeria survived more than a decade at 1432 Valencia St., situated nearly equidistantly between 25th and 26th streets. The pandemic proved tough, too. Already, social media users are bemoaning the loss of its Death by Mushroom pie, which incorporates Moonlight Death and Taxes beer in the sauce.
“My favorite bar of all time. San Francisco’s biggest loss in ages,” one Instagram user commented. Another added: “Now this is some sad shit news.”
Also through the internet grapevine, the colorful Thai and Laotian restaurant Hawker Fare bade farewell.
“It is with the gravest of sad news for me to announce. Hawker Fare’s Last Day of Service will be today. Please join us [for] our last big party,” the restaurant’s Sunday Instagram post stated. Two more posts appeared on Hawker Fare’s profile to say goodbye to owner James Syhabout’s “best friend” and the restaurant’s dishwasher of seven years, and to thank Syhabout’s Stockton friends who visited for last shift.
Sunday’s Instagram post blamed the closure on “insurmountable” operating costs of food and labor. Syhabout told The Chronicle that the Mission’s “crime, grit and dirtiness” contributed to fewer customers, too.
Hawker Fare leaders were not immediately available for comment.
For almost nine years, diners experienced a whirlwind of flavor at Hawker Fare, which introduced the Mission to Lao Isaan favorites and fun, tropical cocktails. The menu was inspired by street food and “hawker market” culture found in Thailand and Lao. Those in-the-know also remember Holy Mountain, the quietly marked speakeasy just upstairs.
As Asian hate crimes increased in 2021 and 2022, the restaurant redoubled efforts to raise awareness for the community, and highlighted Lao New Year with special events. The eatery hosted comedy shows, and despite its conspicuous location, Holy Mountain occasionally offered loud karaoke nights.
The location, at 680 Valencia St. near 18th Street, was Hawker Fare’s second site; the first was in Oakland, where Syhabout’s mom ran a Thai restaurant. That space closed in 2017.
Syhabout told the Chronicle he still owns two restaurants Oakland, Hawker Fare’s sister restaurant, Hawking Bird, and Commis.