After second fire, North Beach liquor store seeks temporary home

In less than five years, fires have twice forced North Beach's Coit Liquor to close its doors at 585 Columbus Ave.

But for proprietor Shadi Zughaya, not only does he plan to rebuild, he's working to find a temporary location in the area.

"I feel like I've lost a kid, I've had the store ten years," Zughaya told ABC7 shortly after a St. Patrick's Day blaze that displaced several businesses. "I raised it, built it and loved it."

A fire in December 2013 forced Zughaya to close for six months while the space was renovated, he told Hoodline via telephone. Because it may take as long as two years before the storefront on Columbus between Union and Green streets is habitable again, Zughaya is seeking a new home.

Photo: San Francisco Fire Department/Twitter

Last week, Zughaya made an offer at the former World of Health space (1657 Powell St. at Union Street) which closed in December 2016. "It's not on the main street, but at least Coit Liquor will still be around and we'll be keeping it in the neighborhood," he said. "I sent the offer letter to the landlord and we'll see."

Zughaya has sought to open at other locations in the neighborhood, but so far, plans haven't materialized the way he had hoped. He recently signed a two-year lease and began renovations at the former Caffe Spuntino (543 Columbus Ave.), which closed late last year.

"I started work, moved the counters and made some basic upgrades," Zughaya said. "I paid the Health Department $611, put the business registration under my name, everything." Public records indicate the DPH application is still open and under review.

Less than two months later, he said the building owner cancelled his lease and returned Zughaya's deposit. "I tried. I signed a lease with the lady and went to the city. She then came after a month and a half and said that the foundation was no good; the space is no good," he said.

Although he got his deposit back, he's still out of pocket for the improvements. The store is eligible for a $10,000 benefit under a city disaster relief fund.

World of Health. | Photo: Google

Public records reveal that Department of Building Inspection permits were issued for mandatory soft-story seismic retrofitting on May 9, however, it's not clear why a lease was originally offered to Zughaya if ongoing work would have interrupted operations.

We attempted to reach the building owner for comment, but have been unsuccessful.

Coit Liquor was one of eight businesses forced to close after the St. Patrick's Day fire, which impacted more than 50 employees at Ferry Plaza Seafood, Tuk Tuk Thai Cafe, The Salzburg, Rogue Ales Public House, Jack Lee Fong Insurance Agency and Michelangelo Caffe.

A pop-up eatery in the forthcoming Lillie Coit's space called Doors Open debuted in April to provide priority employment opportunities for displaced staff members and to raise funds for affected businesses. The establishment features cuisine inspired by The Salzburg, Ferry Plaza Seafood and Tuk Tuk Thai.

Zughaya ultimately is holding out for the business' original location. "I'm only trying to do this temporarily because I want to go back to my space, to what Coit Liquor used to be," he said. "The people of North Beach are the best by far."