Aunt Mary’s, the down-home and community-minded Temescal eatery that opens for breakfast around 8 a.m. and closes at 3 p.m., was famous in the neighborhood for its commitment to providing an evening place to sleep for local homeless people.
For years, there was an ongoing after-dark lineup of homeless people, who worked together to organize their bedding, bedrolls and possessions into orderly arrangements inside the restaurant’s front patio, where it seemed like between 6 and 11 people often spent the night. Amazingly, by 7:15 a.m., as the restaurant staff started to get in for work, the front porch would become miraculously clean and empty, all ready for the daytime chairs and tables to be brought out and breakfast service to start at 8 a.m.
However, when I was on Telegraph Avenue a couple of nights ago, I noticed that the front of Aunt Mary’s was now secured by an imposing and heavy-duty mesh metal gate that locked shut in front of the patio.
I reached out to Jack Stewart and Nu Ho, the couple who have owned and operated Aunt Mary’s since it opened in 2008 to find out more.
I reached out to Nu and Jack in an email and asked them what the deal was, and it sounds like there were a combination of factors, some having to do with the homeless folks, and some not.
Not everyone sleeping on the porch was about to keep it clean when they left in the morning, and a few “had a hassling, sometimes hostile, attitude towards opening staff in the morning.”
Homeless folks might keep the patio clean, but they made messes for neighboring businesses and tenants upstairs.
Aunt Mary’s had constant complaints about homeless people trashing, defecating and/or urinating on store fronts, stairwells, the street corner, and on the 43rd street side. Some of the people affected threatened to complain to the city.
The final straw, according to Jack and Nu, was a break-in a few months ago.
Nu said, “We got broken into in the middle of the night. Both of our doors were torn open, the cash drawer was crashed, minimal cash was lost, but the most damage was what was done to the doors. Our camera showed that whoever did it actually ran the homeless away so he could ‘work’ on the doors. Police were alerted by our security company, however, didn’t show up until morning…”
For the owners, that was the final straw, and the gate — which the landlord helped pay for — became the best option.
4307 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland 94609