Closure of beloved East Bay restaurant Kincaid's in Oakland takes customers by surprise

Wednesday, October 2, 2019
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The sudden closing of yet another East Bay favorite, Kincaid's in Oakland, has customers wondering what's next and why?

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As part of our effort to build a better Bay Area, we've looked at what appears to be the rising trend of restaurants closing in San Francisco. And on Tuesday we learned San Francisco is not alone. The sudden closure of an East Bay favorite has customers wondering what's next and why?

We can call it a sign of the times at Jack London Square in Oakland. It reads, "Closed Permanently," in the window of popular Kincaid's restaurant, due to bankruptcy and a sale.

RELATED: Local restaurant owner explains why so many San Francisco restaurants are closing

Customers showing up on Tuesday found the door locked and empty chairs.

"I am disappointed," said Phil Fay.

And yet, others in the restaurant business see more closures coming.

"Would you go into the restaurant business now?" we asked Ben Shahvar of Buttercup Diner and Bar, a few blocks away.

"No way," he answered. "Not full service. Full service restaurants like us are a dying breed."

LIST: Historic Bay Area Restaurant closures

Buttercup is one of five restaurants owned by Shahvar and his family. They're an East Bay institution. But these days, he says never take a restaurant you love for granted, even if it seems busy because "restaurants historically have an extremely low profit percentage margin."

Figure three percent on average. In a healthy financial environment, that actually works against them, because rents are rising along with the minimum wage at a dollar a year, the next three years in California. That's not always good news, even to those who will benefit, like Ruth Svoboda, a waitress who has worked here for 18 years.

"When the minimum wage goes up, do your tips go up?" we asked

"No," she said.

It's the classic double-edged sword.

"That is one of the most aggressive minimum wage increases in state history," said Shahvar. "You start to see places close at 12 dollars an hour? Wait till we get to 15".

RELATED: String of San Francisco restaurants closing their doors

So what we see in a busy restaurant, these days is not always what it appears.

We have yet to learn specific details of the Kincaid's closure, but the snapshot holds a wide-angle view.

"This is just the beginning," said Shahbar. "We'll see a ton more restaurant closures. We're just getting started."