Yoshi’s San Francisco is under new management.
The popular west coast jazz spot, which doubles as a Japanese restaurant, was sold Tuesday after co-owners Kaz Kajimura and Yoshie Akiba succumbed to the financial pressure of owning the club.
Much of that pressure came from the repayment terms on a $7.2 million loan from the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, which was spent expanding Yoshi’s brand to a new site in the historic Fillmore district that would ultimately become Yoshi’s San Francisco. The money was part of a wider regeneration effort across the entire Fillmore district, but “he just couldn’t make it profitable,” Lisa Bautista, director of marketing for Yoshi’s San Francisco said in a statement.
Yoshi’s was founded just one block from the University of California at Berkeley in 1972 by Kajimura, Akiba, and a third partner. The club would eventually move to its iconic Jack London Square location in Oakland in 1997, creating the 330-seat Yoshi’s Oakland that has grown to become one of the best-known jazz clubs in the world. The owners expanded to a second site in 2007, creating what would become Yoshi’s San Francisco. However, with so many other venues and a strong musical legacy in the area, competition for both acts and audience was fierce, ultimately forcing the club to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2012.
With interest in jazz shows dwindling, and after being eclipsed by an expanded SFJazz, they tried to offer a mix of other genres, but clearly it wasn’t enough.
The club is being sold to the Fillmore Live Entertainment Group, which is a new ownership group created specifically to take ownership of the club. The new management is planning to completely re-brand the club with a new name, menu, and a completely revamped new music strategy. Whether the tradition of jazz at the club will remain under the new management remains to be seen. But things are looking good with Peter Williams, former artistic director for Yoshi’s Oakland, being brought on board to lead booking for the new management team.
Both Yoshi’s locations have stood as a bastion of jazz performance in northern California, playing host to the likes of Oscar Peterson, Wayne Shorter, Pharoah Sanders, Chick Corea, Joe Lovano, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Esperanza Spalding, and Kurt Elling.