Schlok’s Is Finally Opening Its bagel Shop Next Week After ‘Bleeding Money’ Over S.F. Bureaucracy

Despite San Francisco’s notorious bureaucratic red tape, a new destination for chewy, malty bagels is on track to open next week.

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Schlok’s, the pandemic-born pop-up that used to sell out in minutes, opens its permanent shop at 1263 Fell St., near Broderick St. on March 2. It comes from James Lok, formerly a chef at Michelin-starred destinations like Benu and the Restaurant at Meadowood, and Zack Schwab, who also co-owns Pacific Heights bar the Snug.

Finally getting to this debut has been a bumpy journey. On Wednesday, Schlok’s shared a dramatic update on social media, saying it couldn’t open this week as planned because the Department of Building Inspection was still in the process of approving a three-sentence statement that was submitted on Feb. 7. It called on fans to contact San Francisco officials “to help them understand the extreme burden that continues to be placed on small businesses trying to open in this city.”

The Schlok’s space used to be a laundromat, so significant work was needed for the build-out. Toward the end of construction, Schwab said everything from plumbing to electrical seemed fine. But then the city needed clarification on a door Schlok’s installed. It took 10 business days to schedule another inspection and sign off on the door — too long for a small business, in Schwab’s opinion, but actually the target length of time for the Department of Building Inspection (DBI), according to spokesperson Patrick Hannan. He also noted that Schlok’s cancelled three previous inspections, though Schwab said that was because the inspector was on vacation.

At Wednesday’s inspection, DBI cleared Schlok’s to open, though the business still needs to complete more paperwork and two more inspections with the agency. Ultimately, Schlok’s couldn’t schedule its final health inspection until that door sign-off from DBI, which he hoped wouldn’t take two weeks because of its seeming simplicity. Every day of waiting resulted in “bleeding money,” Schwab said.

“When you’re pretty much done with your inspections, you have to start planning to ramp up your operations and open,” he said. “We hired five people in addition to our two managers who have been on salary for months now. We started ordering product.”

When Schlok’s first secured its Lower Haight space last April, Schwab was optimistic that the shop could open by September thanks to Proposition H, a measure aimed at streamlining the permitting process for small businesses. Despite his estimate being off by several months, he thinks Prop. H probably still helped considering the horror stories he’d heard in the past.

“But I think the issue was Prop. H only gets you so far,” he said. “It’s just getting those permits, then you’re just where everyone else finds themselves with the bureaucracy and delays and everything else that’s been so hard for small businesses.”

With the ordeal mostly behind them now, Schwab is eager for customers to visit next week. The modern bagel shop will bring the essentials to the Lower Haight: bags of fresh bagels ($3 each or $33 for a dozen), bagel sandwiches and schmears. But Lok’s take on these typically New York-style classics is unique, with vivid malty notes and a thin crust. Now operating out of shop designed to produce bagels and outfitted with new equipment, Schwab says the bagels are tasting better than ever.

Schlok’s will make its own schmears as well as cure and slice gravlax-style lox in-house. Coffee comes from San Francisco’s Saint Frank. Schwab said he’s expecting more demand than the shop can handle at first. To cut back on the inevitable lines, it’ll make most bagels available for pre-order online starting at 6:45 a.m.

Click here to read the full article at the SF Chronicle

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