Bissap Baobab owner Marco Senghor
Marco Senghor, owner of Bissap Baobab. Photo from Oct. 11, 2009.

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.

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Christina A. MacintoshReporting Intern

Christina grew up in Brooklyn and moved to the Bay in 2018. She studied Creative Writing and Earth Systems at Stanford.

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  1. It’s so important to resolve things in a cool, kind way. Marco has been very mellow, and he has been a big part of the culture of The Mission. My former neighbor went to the blessing ceremony for Big Baobob’s opening with the Mission Aztec dancers performing, as he has for Marco’s other businesses, since he’s lived in the Mission a LONG time. And this neighbor of mine has always described Marco as a kind, soft-spoken, all around good person.

    But this might surprise you… this former neighbor of mine lives in 2235 Mission St., the building where the residents are making the complaints. The noise complaints are being made by people who have lived in the Mission for a long time and who are very familiar with how noisy the Mission can be.

    I know all of these people personally. They met with Marco and his team members Christopher, Kevin, and Fatima in attempts to find a resolution. Courtney was at one point going over to BB 3 times a week, literally in her pajamas, asking them to keep the noise down. There’s no villain in this story. This is just a situation where different people want different things.

  2. if you want a quiet idyllic setting, why in the world would you live on mission street, one of sf’s busiest and loudest commercial streets? BART, buses, trucks, outdoor vendors, late night restaurants, and endless activity. marco is a model business owner, having had great businesses on the same block for over 25 years.

    as sf thinks about building another 60 or 80,000 units, many in areas with public transit, this issue will continue to grow. hope they can figure it out sooner than later.

    while I feel bad for people who have to put up with noise issues , it’s hard to understand why you would move to a commercial hub and expect it to be super quiet.

  3. I can’t stand people complaining about noise in the city! I remember 20 years ago, people complained about Cat Club! City life is loud!

  4. Not clear how Mishra has standing to make complaints given that she does not live in the unit let alone the Mission. She is the landlord for one unit and is still collecting the same rent from her tenant. She has sustained no harms from this. Her tenant was not at the hearing to complain about noise. Both Mishra and Paige made complaints about the possibility of noise before Baobab was even open in September. Another owner who complained about the possibility of noise from Baobab before it was open, withdrew their complaint after it was open presumably because their fears were unfounded. No other residents for other surrounding apartments have complained. The city was never able to find that the noise was excessive despite multiple 311 calls and the entertainment commission never found that the noise was excessive despite 7 visits after complaints. Some of their complaints made were about noise from Baobab after Baobab was closed and not making noise. It would be sad that two people, one of which does not even live in the Mission can make unsubstantiated noise complaints that would impact the livelihood of Boabab. The standard that entertainment not be audible seems entirely unreasonable. Cars and trucks are allowed on mission street and they are audible. It seems Paige and Mishra were mainly motivated with the concerns about their property values. However they have not shown in a real way that their property values have gone down because of Baobab.

    1. Sam: it wasn’t 7 inspections by CCSF investigators from the Entertainment Commission— it was 14. All found that Baobad is 100% in compliance with S.F. Noise ordinance and the conditions on their Place of Entertainment permit. The only official investigation by the CA ABC occurred on March 5th in an undercover visit from 3 ABC investigators. They found Baobab in total compliance with the conditions on their Temporary ABC license .

  5. I think if you buy a condo/or rent an apartment next to a bar–oh well! Deal with it. Actually–try & enjoy the restaurant, it’s part of life in San Francisco. It’s unfair & overly entitled to expect the bar or restaurant to shut down if you knew it was there when you moved in. But on the hand–if a loud bar moves in after you, some discussion needs to be had. A lot of discussion. I know–I’d been living in my house for 18 years when Ike’s Sandwiches moved in next to us & they were the worst neighbors we ever had. W wanted mediation, but Supervisor Scott Weiner did NOTHING! And finally, Ike’s moved away. I love Bissap Baobab & I think it could ADD value to the property! It’s a good spot, been there a long time, longer I expect than this condo, so I say if poor little millennial doesn’t like it–move.

    1. Connie, the owner here did not buy a home next to a bar. She bought her condo and only later did this bar decide to move next door to homes.

      If she had bought with the bar already there then I would agree she has no case. She probably would have gotten the place cheaper as a result. But that was not the sequence of events here, hence the hearing.

      1. Before it was Baobob is was Lupulandia Brewery. So it’s not like there wasn’t similar noise as before. Creeps ruining the culture of our neighborhood

        1. As I said before there is a big difference between a regular bar or restaurant, and a de facto nightclub with music and dancing. Not only is there much more noise with the latter but also they typically stay open later, until the early hours.

          There are empty commercial locations 2/3 blocks east of there that have few residents that would be better suited. Heck there is even street parking there at night.

          1. Only in San Francisco will people whine about noise after they CHOSE to live on or just off Mission St. This same nonsense happened in the 90’s in SOMA when loft buyers wanted to shut down the nightclubs.

          2. Kim, Paul, Connie: I own a condo there. The condo owners have been there since 2009 and have never complained about noise from any other businesses.

            I no longer live there, but everyone who is still there is distraught over the noise. One of the owners sold their condo (for 20% less than it was valued at prior to BB opening) because they found their beloved home of 14 years to now be unlivable due to the noise.

            Not that property values are the point here, but a situation has got to be REALLY BAD to move away from a place you love and sell your home for 20% off.

            I think in general, why not just be curious when reading about a conflict in the community, rather than jump to conclusions? The narrative of “entitled overly-sensitive, gentrifying, maybe even a bit racist, complainers VS the community” just isn’t true. It’s a PR campaign which is manipulating public opinion.

  6. Does Page realize she comes across like one of those entitled white people who think of Black people as sneaks who need constant monitoring by authority figures?

  7. Seems to me that there would not be a problem if this were just a restaurant, or even a bar. There are plenty of them in the neighborhood.

    But this place is trying to market itself as a nightclub with music/dancing? And most places like that are in the non-residential SOMA district and not right next door to peoples’ homes.

    If I were the judge I would issue a compromise ruling. Beer and wine is OK but no hard licqor. And a reasonable closing time – most restaurants are closed by 9 pm, at least on school nights. Bars are pretty empty by 11 p.m. on school nights.

    If you want wild, go to SOMA.

    1. Why do you think hard alcohol would increase the noise? People go dancing and listen to music even when they’re sober. I go dancing all the time and I don’t drink while I’m doing it

      The idea that someone would buy a condo on a lively commercial corridor with tons of bars and restaurants, and not expect noise, is ridiculous. Move to the suburbs!

      Also, SOMA is brim full with condos

      1. Mission Resident, the owners of those condos at 2235 Mission bought in 2009, and no one ever complained about other businesses. This is the first complaint in 14 years. It’s a much different situation. People have felt that the increase in noise relative to the past 14 years in the Mission has made their home unlivable. It’s a real terrible thing for those people.

    2. I think Ron is this guy who posts as Owen on SFist. He has an obsession with SOMA being the only area of the city with “nightclubs”. Seems to ignore that places like Make Out Room or Bar Part Time that have raging music and dancing are all over the Mission…

      Ronny boy, Pleasanton is calling your name baby!

      1. Rocky–not to beat up on you but I live by the Make Out Room. They have good soundproofing and loud bands aren’t noted unless I’m literally walking by the place. They are good neighbors and it sounds like Bissap Baobab is doing the same

        1. Maybe it is more a matter of the business paying whatever it takes to completely soundproof the joint. With the caveat that there is often noise and disturbance outside of bars and clubs at closing time.

        2. Yeah Hele that’s exactly my point. Both are meeting requirements in soundproofing. 1 business has lame neighbors and the other does not.

          Ronny boy is giving himself away when saying “ With the caveat that there is often noise and disturbance outside of bars and clubs at closing time.”. This type of person doesn’t belong is a commercial dense area. They want crickets and that’s not happening on Mission street.

          1. One more time, there is a big difference between the normal hustle and bustle of a commercial street and having a nightclub with a late license moving in next door to where you live.

            If you cannot see both sides of this issue then you are a part of the problem.

          2. I’d refrain from judging people you don’t know, or pretending you understand a dispute that you don’t. It’s disheartening to see how much judgement and how little empathy there is for one side of this dispute.

    3. I’ve been working in night clubs in the mission for 25 years, they are not dead on weeknights and people usually stay until we basically tell them we are closing. You are very out of touch Ron. Literally every night club in the Mission that I have worked at were next to places where people live. Dozens of places. If you are not informed by the subject perhaps you should take a step back and listen to those that are.

      1. How “informed” does someone have to be to not want to have their sleep disturbed at night?

        Clearly there are two sides to this issue, which is why this meeting went on for 8 hours. Try and understand things from the point of view of the residents. To my mind this conflict requires a compromise solution when neither side gets all that they want.

        1. Hey Paul, you obviously know more about nightclubs in the Mission than Ron, but I agree with Ron. This situation is different. 2235 owners lived there for 14 years with no problems, no complaints, but now they find their home unlivable.

  8. I attended the zoom hearing. Neighbors are neighbors. Best to work this out between themselves and sad it came to the hearing but this is sometimes how best to resolve disputes. Both sides seems to stand by the idea of living harmoniously and I believe the ABC court understands this and all will work out for both parties. I hope for the best.

  9. Page and Mishra… time to sell and move to Walnut Creek, Danville, Alamo… anywhere but here . Lame people.

    1. I’m sorry but they bought places next to Mission street and expect it to be quiet. I don’t think it’s fair to harass a business that is located on one of the already loudest streets in the city.

      1. Yeah Ruby, that’s exactly what I’m saying! Hint hint… these whiny neighbors are the lame ones

        1. Rocky and Ruby, 2235 Mission owners have been there for 14 years. It was of course plenty noisy all 14 of those years being on Mission st between 18th and 19th! But no one ever complained. Having a nightclub next door is different. What’s the harm in having a little empathy for them?

    2. Well, one of the owners already sold for $200k less than the property was worth before BB opening, and left their home and neighborhood of 14 years that they loved.

      Others have moved out due to the noise, others have asked for a decrease in rent since their home is so much worse now due to the noise. Two of the units are empty despite being listed at below market rates.

      Why would you wish pain and loss to anyone?