Storied SF diner announces plans to reopen in June

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“Trapped in time” is one way people tend to describe Hamburger Haven, the Inner Richmond greasy spoon that opened in December 1968, a little over a year after the Summer of Love. 

But now, the retro diner at the corner of Clement Street and Ninth Avenue, which has been shuttered since the early days of the pandemic, may finally be moving forward. Owner Roozbeh Falahati told SFGATE he plans to reopen by the end of June as he finalizes a 25-year-long lease with the Chinatown Community Development Center, which purchased the building with city-subsidized funding from the Small Sites Program in December 2018. 

“They wanted to protect the space, particularly the rent-controlled units upstairs,” Falahati told SFGATE on Thursday morning. “If it wasn’t for that, we probably would have closed up and not come back.”

It didn’t come as a surprise when Hamburger Haven temporarily shuttered in March 2020 alongside every other eatery in San Francisco. But as restaurants throughout the neighborhood slowly began to reopen for limited capacity indoor dining about a year later, the diner remained dark, and Inner Richmond residents began to fear that their favorite comfort food spot was gone for good.  

Then, a sign of hope materialized on the boarded-up windows: a swirling purple and green mural with a message that promised the restaurant would reopen in mid-2021. However, as that time frame came and went, the neighborhood’s worries intensified. 

“We all miss our Haven so much,” read one handwritten note taped to the front door that October. “Are you coming back? How can we help?” 

A sign taped to Hamburger Haven in October 2021.

Amanda Bartlett/SFGATE

Falahati said that at the time of the initial closure, the building was due for seismic retrofitting, and he needed to keep the restaurant shuttered until the process was complete. He had hoped to reopen last June but said the anticipated timeline was further delayed due to permitting challenges and changing terms with the lease, which he then had to renegotiate to ensure the restaurant could stay in business.

“People would send us photos of their family and write notes and slip them under the door. They called us. They sent letters and emails,” Falahati said. “It meant a lot to us, hearing from everybody and knowing they cared.” 

Still, he didn’t want to make any more announcements until he had a clear answer for his customers. 

“Now that we have things more set in stone, I think it’s safe to say we’re ready for the next round of Hamburger Haven,” Falahati said.

Roozbeh Falahati is taking over the lease for Hamburger Haven from his father, Majid Falahati.  

Roozbeh Falahati is taking over the lease for Hamburger Haven from his father, Majid Falahati.

 

Amanda Bartlett / SFGATE

Last month, construction workers began to file in and out of the restaurant, and a public notice of application for ownership change quietly appeared on one of the front windows — but customers shouldn’t expect any significant changes. Falahati said he’s taking over the business from his father Majid, who had previously run the restaurant since the mid-1970s. He plans to preserve Hamburger Haven’s vintage aesthetic, from the wood-paneled walls to the cushy dark green diner stools, but some renovations are necessary to ensure they can last for years to come. 

“The counters were falling apart — they were built with old particle board from 1968,” Falahati said. “We need to replace the equipment and renovate the floors and repaint, but nothing about the look will change.”

Even the old-fashioned cash register is staying put — but only as a decorative display. Falahati said the restaurant is moving away from a cash-only model and will be accepting online orders once it reopens. 

Roozbeh Falahati is taking over the lease for Hamburger Haven from his father, Majid Falahati.

Roozbeh Falahati is taking over the lease for Hamburger Haven from his father, Majid Falahati.

Amanda Bartlett / SFGATE

However, customers can expect a few minor modifications to the menu. Only breakfast and lunch will be served for the time being, Falahati said, and the soda machine will be replaced with a beer cooler, though canned soda will still be served. Milkshakes will also be temporarily absent from the restaurant’s offerings to “make things easier for staff” as they get settled in, Falahati said. 

Roozbeh Falahati is taking over the lease for Hamburger Haven from his father, Majid Falahati.

Roozbeh Falahati is taking over the lease for Hamburger Haven from his father, Majid Falahati.

Amanda Bartlett / SFGATE

“We’re trying to figure out exactly how to get everything back to the way it was,” Falahati said. “We want to make sure we can be here for a long time.” 

Hamburger Haven is at 800 Clement St. and will be open daily from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Roozbeh Falahati is taking over the lease for Hamburger Haven from his father, Majid Falahati.

Roozbeh Falahati is taking over the lease for Hamburger Haven from his father, Majid Falahati.

Amanda Bartlett / SFGATE

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