San Francisco’s Roosevelt Tamale Parlor closes for good

Photo of Nico Madrigal-Yankowski
Roosevelt Tamale Parlor, located at 2817 24th St., has closed.

Roosevelt Tamale Parlor, located at 2817 24th St., has closed.

Ann S./Yelp

Another one bites the dust. Roosevelt Tamale Parlor, a 100-year-old Mexican restaurant (or 103, according to some), has closed for good. Erratic business due to the pandemic and no guarantee of a lease renewal from the landlord are the two main culprits, according to Mission 竞技宝竞猜, which first reported the closure.?

Since 2012, Aaron Presbrey and Barry Moore have owned and operated the sit-down restaurant at 2817 24th St. in the Mission District of San Francisco. With its storied history, it’s a place that was mostly kept alive by neighborhood regulars and longtime patrons, especially during the heart of the pandemic, according to Presbrey.

“By the end, we knew about 70% of our customers by sight if not by name,” Presbrey told SFGATE by email.

When the city was in lockdown, and despite San Francisco’s slower return to indoor dining compared with other big cities, many of Roosevelt’s devoted customers still wanted to eat the signature tamales and other Mexican dishes. So they ordered takeout. But it wasn’t enough to sustain the business.?

“This change [in business model] definitely impacted our bottom line because of the steep fees charged by the delivery services,” Presbrey said. “We also noticed that many of our regular customers moved out of San Francisco during the pandemic for various reasons.”

The closure of Roosevelt Tamale Parlor comes after news of another 100-plus-year-old Mission business having a hard time. St. Francis Fountain, which SFGATE profiled back in July, went up for sale in late August as owners Levon Kazarian and Peter Hood wanted to move on to other ventures in their lives.

It begs the question: Why are two century-old staples of the Mission continuing to struggle?

The easy answer is the pandemic, according to Presbrey. He also added that it’s the nature of a city — populations evolve and so do neighborhoods.

“I think the closure of these older businesses simply means that the demographic of the city is changing and that possibly the newer residents of the city aren't as attracted to the nostalgic nature of the older establishments,” he said. “... Cities grow and evolve and unfortunately that can mean that some of their institutions lose their value to the current population.”

Still, Roosevelt Tamale Parlor was able to survive through the worst of the pandemic mainly because of its loyal customer base. Presbrey said he was grateful for that.?

“My greatest memories from the Roosevelt all revolve around the people that made up our community,” he said. “We hosted 80th birthdays and 50th wedding anniversaries for patrons who had been eating there since their teens. We hosted wedding rehearsal dinners for couples whose children we later fed. We were the final meal before labor for numerous new mothers.”

San Francisco has just lost another space that was a community hub as much as it was a restaurant.

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