A judge from the California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control oversaw an eight-hour public hearing today on whether to approve Bissap Baobab’s license to serve beer and wine, initiated by a protest against the application filed by two condo owners in the building next door.
If anyone needed a drink after all that, Bissap Baobab is still serving alcohol — for at least 30 more days.
The hearing initially drew 60 audience members, many in support of the restaurant and its owner, Marco Senghor. Almost 40 remained for the duration of the day-long hearing.
The conflict between Senghor and the condo owners began in July, after the reopening of the business was announced, but before the establishment was operating. The entire homeowners association protested the license application of Senghor’s new location at 2243 Mission St. near 19th Street. Only two individuals who own units remain active in the case.
The central disagreement dragging the hearing from 9:30 a.m. to after 5 p.m. was whether noise that the condo residents hear from inside their apartments is actually coming from Bissap Baobab. To date, the city’s Entertainment Commission has never found the establishment in violation of the city’s sound ordinance.
Barnali Mishra, one of the two condo owners protesting the license — who does not presently occupy her unit — said that, despite the restaurant’s compliance with the city’s ordinance, it is in violation of its conditional license to serve beer and wine. This license states that “entertainment shall not be audible to nearby residences and consideration points.”
After the restaurant opened, one of Mishra’s tenants, who moved in prior to Bissap Baobab’s opening, requested a 15 percent rent reduction because of “hardship” from the noise. He said it made working from home at night a problem.
Mishra’s initial complaint, from July, stated that her “property will become significantly less desirable due to the loud music and late hours, and the property value will diminish.”
Elaine Olshantensky, a witness for Senghor whose job is to help establishments obtain alcohol licenses, said that property values are “not subject to ABC protest.”
The three witnesses called by Mark Rennie, the attorney representing Senghor, maintained that the noise could be coming from lots of sources, including Beauty Bar, buses, or the Mission Street Oyster Bar across the street.
Kevin Ortiz, a witness and advisor to Senghor, said that complaints have been called in to 311 when the business is not even open, or has been open for 10 minutes and music was not actually playing.
Courtney Page, the other condo owner appealing the license, has lived in her unit for 14 years.
“I’ve been living here for 4,988 days. I’m aware of the normal sounds and noises on Mission,” she said.
She submitted to evidence screenshots from a decibel measuring app, recording ambient street noise as compared to noise from the restaurant, which she described as “scientific data.”
Mishra, who lived in her unit from 2014 to 2016, said she never had any issues with noise before the restaurant opened, nor had she received complaints from previous tenants. She described incredulity of Bissap Baobab’s team about the source of the noise as “gaslighting.”
The establishment has already spent $60,000 on noise control, including double-paned windows, walls on the patio side, soundboards, sound-dampening floors and carpets, sound-dampening curtains, and noise-canceling varnish for the walls. But Ortiz said that the business is willing to invest in more soundproofing.
Since Jan. 19, there have only been seven noise complaints from residents of 2235 Mission St. But Page attributes this change to the ongoing investigation in preparation for today’s hearing.
“What’s most important to me is understanding how things are now,” said Alberto Roldan, the judge overseeing the hearing.
Roldan has 30 days to make his decision as to whether the license should be denied, approved, or approved with additional conditions. Bissap Baobab is allowed to continue using its permit in the meantime.