The Ramp Restaurant Looking for a Safe Harbor

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The waterfront dive bar and restaurant, The Ramp, and accompanying boatyard, San Francisco Boatworks, continue to roll on rocky waves with a month-to-month lease. Located on Terry A. Francois Boulevard, the 100,000-square-foot property is the City’s only working boatyard, which makes it crucial for the roughly 500 fishing, police, fire, recreational sailing, and cruising boats that’re hauled out of the water every year for repair, maintenance, and storage. 

Since its inception in 1986, The Ramp morphed from a bait shop and hotdog stand into a freewheeling waterfront joint known for Latin dance bands and after-work gatherings. Arvind Patel, who owns the restaurant and boatyard, hasn’t paid any rent for more than two years despite reporting $6.7 million in sales between March 2020 to January 2022.

Patel owes the Port of San Francisco more than $900,000 in back rent, according to Port Director of Communications Randy Quezada. Patel doesn’t deny the arrears but takes issue with the lease terms, which lapsed into a month-to-month agreement in 2007 after a 30-year tenancy expired. He pays the Port 6.75 percent of restaurant sales and 8.75 percent of boatyard sales, the latter of which he believes is too high. A much larger lease for a drydock at Pier 70 is on offer for 3.3 percent of sales. Patel told the San Francisco Chronicle that he paid “$2.4 million in excess of market rates in percentage rent for the maritime boatyard operation since 2006, an enormous effective windfall for the Port.”

The Port has said it would bring the rates closer to comparable retail tenants in the area but declined to disclose the percentage it offered Patel. 

The Port is a self-sustaining enterprise agency, limited to spending what it collects in revenue. The pandemic and associated shelter-in-place orders reduced the Port’s income by 40 percent. Presently, it’s operating on $104 million compared with a pre-pandemic budget of $173 million and is carrying $30 million in unpaid rent. Still, the Port established a rent relief and forgiveness program to help small businesses recover from COVID-19, for which The Ramp and boatyard are eligible. 

The Port is negotiating with Patel in “good faith” and is hopeful that a mutually agreeable lease will be reached. 

“The Ramp and San Francisco Boatworks offer great food and important maritime industrial services for small recreational vessels throughout the Bay Area,” Quezada said. “The Port is committed to ensuring that small and recreational vessels have access to services along the waterfront.” 

The Port said that while it’d like to keep Patel as a tenant it must treat all occupants equitably and cannot offer more support to him than to other businesses.

In the Chronicle, Patel, who didn’t return inquiries from the View, said, “There is something about this place, funky as it is, that hits a nerve with people. It’s a waterfront dive. It’s an everyman’s hangout. Lots of music and dance. It’s an institution that, if it’s damaged or we lose it, we lose a tiny bit of what makes San Francisco San Francisco.”