SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — When Democrats running for President campaign in California, there are closed-door fundraisers and sometimes rallies at various spots. But there’s only one place in San Francisco that has hosted eight candidates with more to come: Manny’s.
This restaurant and cafe in San Francisco’s Mission District has only been open for six months, and already it has hosted seven candidates. South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) have all made campaign stops.
With the California Democratic Convention happening in San Francisco over the weekend, the political hot spot will be hopping for the next several days.
On Friday night, former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke is holding an event at the restaurant. Saturday, it’s Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) whil Sunday, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) stops by. On Tuesday, Montana Governor Steve Bullock is scheduled for an appearance.
Owner Manny Yekutiel says Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) is scheduled for June 21. And he is in talks with former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign.
“We’d like to get all 23. We’re getting calls from other campaigns now asking when they’ll be able to use the space. And all these events are packed to the brim. So it’s a very busy weekend for us and a ‘pinch me’ moment for me as a small business owner,” Yekutiel told KPIX.
How did this restaurant get to be the most popular spot in California for Democratic Presidential candidates?
“It’s been this perfect alignment of working with this awesome new organization called The Next Fifty, us being well located and built for this purpose, a little bit of divine intervention and some special sauce sprinkled in ,” said Yekutiel.
He added that he is still shocked at the cafe’s new status.
“I have to say, I don’t know. I don’t know! I mean it’s a little…it’s been a little bit of a surprise to me, too,” explained Yekutiel.
Growing up in Los Angeles, Yekutiel did not exactly imagine this future for himself.
“My father came to Canada originally on a boat with $23 in his pocket. He washed dishes, he pumped gas. He opened up his own restaurant in Vancouver and rubbed two pennies together to make it happen,” Yekutiel remembered. “My mother’s family escaped the pogroms of Russia to come to this country.”
As the only American-born son of a very large Afghan-Jewish family, Yekutiel says he is deeply grateful just to be in America.
“To be a White House intern, to work on President Obama’s campaign and Hillary Clinton’s campaign — all of those would have been enough,” said Yekutiel. “But to be getting calls from Beto O’Rourke’s campaign and from Amy Klobuchar’s campaign, I could never have imagined.”
He regards Manny’s as a place where people and politics come together, akin to City Lights bookstore and the Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics at 518 Valencia.
“I feel like I’m part of a longer term lineage of people that have been holding spaces like this down, and I want it to be as useful to as many people as often as possible,” he said.
In addition to bringing politicians to talk to people, his place brings people to listen to politicians, many of whom are new to political events. Shannon Amitin co-owns Jolene’s, a bar and restaurant down the street from Manny’s. She told KPIX she had “never been to a single political event” before Manny’s opened up.
But in the past six months, Amitin has been to two.
“I think that’s what’s really special about this place, is just the connecting of two different worlds that have never really melded before,” said Amitin. And he says Manny is a big part of that.
“He’s great at involving people, pulling people in, getting people to care. I think that’s what his magic is,” said Amitin.
A word of warning to Republicans though. Manny is not open to allowing GOP events at his non-profit restaurant and event space.
“We are not a bi-partisan space,” he said “We’re a partisan Democratic space. Proudly.”
While he has family members who voted for President Trump and sees the benefit to spaces where all sides can come together, his restaurant is not one of them.
“We’re here not to give a platform to Republicans, but to strengthen and inform, and organize the left,” said Yekutiel.