E-Campaign to 'Save' Medjool's Rooftop Bar Kicks Off -- But Is it Grassroots or Astroturf?

Categories: Politics
At Medjool, in a manner of speaking, the roof is on fire
Invitations to join a Facebook page titled "SAVE MEDJOOL" are flooding San Franciscans' e-mail inboxes. The missive pleads for locals' help in persuading the big, bad Planning Department from pulling the permits for the Mission establishment's rooftop bar, which would ostensibly put the place under and force 60 hard-working souls into the breadlines.

And yet, while Medjool's position may truly be perilous, this might not be an organic swelling of city pride. Bar owner Gus Murad is a major donor to Gavin Newsom and other politicians and his rooftop bar is a favorite political watering hole and fund-raising site for candidates across the local spectrum. And the Facebook page's creator, Justin Roja, is an employee of Ground Floor Public Affairs, the strategy firm hatched by former Newsom right-hand man Alex Tourk. Ground Floor's existence, by the way, is not mentioned on the Facebook page. Yet While the "address" of "Save Medjool" is 2522 Mission -- that's Medjool -- the phone number listed is Ground Floor's.

Messages left for Roja have not yet been returned.
Murad and his bar Medjool were the beneficiaries of unwanted scrutiny last month, when a typographical error in a planner's report permitted him to build the adjacent New Mission Theater condo project 20 feet higher than neighborhood zoning allows. Newsom then vetoed the Board of Supervisors' attempt to undo the flawed ruling, essentially giving a huge potential monetary boon to his big-time donor Murad.

During the whole imbroglio, meanwhile, it was revealed that the swingin' rooftop bar at Medjool is considered illegal by the city of San Francisco.   

"This is just crazy to me," Planning Commission President Christina Olague told SF Weekly at the time. "Every politician in town has been up on that roof deck. Dennis Herrera had his fund-raisers up there, even Mark Sanchez, a progressive Green. And, since 2004 [when the rooftop bar opened], it was illegal and no one knew? No one held [Murad] accountable?"

While other nitty-gritty remedies may be available to remedy Medjool's problems -- and Murad's attorney, Andrew Junius, has always maintained that all the bar's permitting is in order (but wouldn't show us the permits) -- this Facebook page may be a stroke of genius.

As the anti-American Apparel parade of incensed hipsters proved in February, there's no amount of law or logic you can't overcome in San Francisco by having a few hundred people show up at a city meeting and yell at the commissioners.

If Ground Floor is indeed behind this Facebook page, then it's every bit as Astroturf as a backyard lawn mat. But the results of having a horde of Missionites sashay into a commission meeting? Those will be real.

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