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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Yoshi's S.F. Files for Bankruptcy, But Says It's Not in Peril

Posted By on Tue, Dec 4, 2012 at 3:00 AM

Yoshi's SF
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Yoshi's S.F., the swanky Fillmore District jazz club and Japanese restaurant that opened in 2007, filed for bankruptcy last week, SF Weekly has learned.

Yoshi's representatives say the move is intended to allow restructuring of the struggling club's debt -- which includes a $7.2 million loan from the city's redevelopment agency that Yoshi's was due to begin repaying last week. But the bankruptcy filing will have no effect on programming or operations of Yoshi's S.F. or its sister club in Oakland, representatives say.

"We're continuing to operate business as normal," Lisa Bautista, the club's director of marketing and public relations, tells SF Weekly. She said the filing stems from disagreements between the owners of the two Yoshi's clubs over "the value and validity of certain obligations to vendors," as well as a need for the S.F. location to restructure its long-term debt.

The Chapter 11 petition was filed in Northern California Bankruptcy Court on Nov. 27, two days before the club was due to begin repaying its loan from the city. It was unclear Monday evening exactly what role the city loan repayment schedule played in the bankruptcy filing.

After opening to much fanfare in 2007, Yoshi's has struggled to find a programming formula that consistently draws large audiences. Given that the business is both a live venue and an upscale restaurant, healthy crowds on a nightly basis are especially important to its bottom line.

"You have poor bookings, you have no one in the restaurant," Bautista says.

Mirroring the Oakland's club's jazz-heavy calendar did not work, so the S.F. club's latest artistic director, Derek Hunter, has booked even more R&B and soul acts along with jazz. Arists peforming this month include the R&B singer Brian McKnight and the funk legends George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic. Smooth-jazz icon Kenny G played last week.

The new booking strategy has helped -- Bautista says that as of August, the club has been earning a profit or breaking even. But after earning its very first profit in 2010, Yoshi's spent much of 2011 and 2012 in the red. The venue is still struggling with debt accrued during those months of unprofitability, which was part of the impetus behind the bankruptcy filing.

Bautista says the Yoshi's staff is still booking new shows and working normally. Asked if there was any danger of the club closing, she responded, "God, no -- no, no no."

"A lot of these things have to do with how it was set up when it first opened," she says. "It was set up in such a way that it makes it difficult to continue to run at a profit, so that's why it needs to be restructured."

-- @iPORT

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Ian S. Port


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