Meyer and Paez aren’t the only restaurateurs struggling with access to capital despite being poised for success just months ago. At the beginning of 2020, Uptown Oakland saw the debuts — or planned debuts — of multiple cocktail-centric venues that COVID-19 has since hurled into question, forcing them to temporarily close or, as in the case of Low Bar, forestalling efforts to even begin service. In a city rife with concerns over gentrification, and in a neighborhood where those concerns are especially concrete, these establishments stand out, in part, because their owner-operators identify as Black or Latinx or both, and because they explicitly aim to make the local cocktail scene more inviting and accessible to their communities. Sobre Mesa, for instance, is a stunning Afro-Latino cocktail lounge bathed in Dionysiac forest green and serving Caribbean-inflected food and drinks, informed primarily by chef-owner Nelson German’s Dominican and African ancestry and a particularly inspiring trip he took to Havana.
Author Kathryn Campo Bowen is a Bay Area-based food writer whose work has appeared in the SF Chronicle, Eater, Edible SF/East Bay and other publications. She is a graduate of the University of California Berkeley School of Law.