Yoshi’s’ San Francisco location started off with a bang when the jazz venue opened its doors in December 2007. But since then, the venue has consistently lost money, according to co-owner Kaz Kajimura. Thanks to some recent management restructuring and programming changes, however, Kajiumura reports that Yoshi’s SF finally made money in the first quarter of 2010.
“It is very, very challenging but I think it’s turning around finally with the economy coming back,” said Kajimura. “We actually made money in the first quarter. That hasn’t happened in a long time.”
After a successful opening month in which the venue made “a huge amount,” Kajimura said “we thought it’s going to be really, really great. But the economy went into a losing spiral. There was a month or two we almost made it.” In addition, he said the venue also took a hit when a couple big acts canceled. “We’re cutting costs as much as possible and trying to find new income streams by developing late-night DJ parties as a sort of third component of Yoshi’s’ business component. All those things seem to be finally coming together.”
The owners of Yoshi’s, which started their venture in 1973 in Berkeley, then moved to Claremont Avenue in Oakland in ’77 before relocating to their present space in Jack London Square in 1997, took a risk when it opened a sister location in San Francisco. “We’re still learning what works and doesn’t work in San Francisco,” said Kajimura. “It’s an ongoing struggle but I think we’re getting smarter in booking the right acts.”
So what exactly are the right acts for San Francisco? “We have to be smarter — not having the Oakland and San Francisco booking conflict each other,” he said. “We’re getting really good at it now. Basically we’re trying to find the right act — that’s always challenging because we don’t’ have the luxury of, oh, we don’t have good acts, let’s turn the club dark. We have to fill every single day. Sometimes at the last minute we end up having some act that’s not really a good run. For us, unless the entertainment side works it’s very tough to have the restaurant standing alone. The first priority is let’s have a good booking. It’s still hit-or-miss but I think we’re getting better and better.”
Hopefully Yoshi’s SF will be able to make the venture more stable because it’s about to face increased competition. As we reported last month, SFJAZZ announced plans to open a new home — including a 700-seat auditorium — in Hayes Valley thanks to an anonymous $20 million donation. Currently, Yoshi’s in SF — whose jazz club seats a little more than 400 — has to book artists for multiple days to accommodate larger crowds.
“It’s probably [going to be] more challenging for us in securing good acts,” said Kajimura. “It’s not so much the paper market we’re concerned about. Sometimes they have a pretty big power to grasp a lot of artists because their venues are a lot bigger than us so a lot of artists go for that because they don’t have to play multiple nights at Yoshi’s. They only do one night, and make the same amount of money. It’s going to be challenging but if it happens we’ll have to find a way to coexist.”