When Jeannette Etheredge, owner of the 93-year-old Tosca Café in North Beach, fell $100,000 behind in her rent, the future of the iconic watering hole looked grim. Landlord Roger Forbes served Etheredge with an eviction notice, something the shareholder in nine San Francisco strip clubs seems fond of doing these days: He also served eviction papers to legendary North Beach peep-show the Lusty Lady for falling behind in their rent (see cover story).
When actor Sean Penn, a longtime regular of Tosca, heard the news, he reached out to his friend Ken Friedman and Friedman’s business partner, chef April Bloomfield, well regarded in New York for combining upscale food with a bar ambiance at their establishments, like the Spotted Pig and the Breslin, and set the deal in motion for them to take over. Friedman, whose career started in the music business, spent time at Tosca when he worked for legendary concert promoter Bill Graham. The menu, Bloomfield says, will be straightforward with an “Italian twist.”
Others had come forward to take over Tosca, but Etheredge felt best about Friedman and Bloomfield, who plan to clean it up but not change it too much — something she and other regulars feel strongly about — and says she is thrilled about the deal.
Tosca Café opened in 1919, making it the third-oldest bar in the City. It has been the place for celebrities, locals and powerful politicians to mingle and drink the signature house “cappuccino” (Ghirardelli chocolate, steamed milk, and brandy), which was created during prohibition. Tosca stopped serving food long ago, so the biggest challenge will be updating the kitchen — and transferring the liquor license, which can take months. If things go smoothly with the kitchen, liquor license, and cleanup, they plan to reopen this fall.