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    Up Close and Personal with Manny Yekutiel of ‘Manny’s’

    By Louise “Lou” Fischer–

    I first met Emanuel “Manny” Yekutiel” in December of 2017, when the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club was nominating new Board members for the upcoming year. As the outgoing Co-Chair of the Club, I had the pleasure of sending out the “Welcome to the Board!” emails to the candidates who were selected from a large pool of applicants. Most of the responses were a form of “Thank you, I’m excited to be on the Board.” Manny’s email was different; in addition to expressing gratitude, his response included: “I can’t wait to dig in and get to work.”

    I had only met Manny once, but already I knew that this was a guy who wasn’t content just to be someone. He was going to do something, or more appropriately, to do many good things in the world. 

    Fast-forward a few months, and while biking home from work, I saw Manny sitting on his Vespa motor scooter at the corner of Valencia and 16th, staring intently at a former sushi restaurant.  He told me that he was about to sign a lease and would be creating a café and civic gathering space. I channeled my inner Jewish mother and said, “Manny, this city is littered with the bones of failed gathering spaces that tried to do the same thing. What makes you think that you can succeed?” 

    Thankfully, he didn’t listen to me—or any other skeptic. Now, all I can say to Manny is, “I’m so proud of you and I’ve never been happier to be wrong.” Senator Kamala Harris said it best at her campaign event during Pride weekend: “Look at what you’ve done!” 

    Manny, whom I refer to as a “kinetic ball of boundless energy,” recently took some time to provide an “Up Close and Personal” interview with me for the San Francisco Bay Times.

    Lou Fischer: Where did your calling to do social justice originate?  

    Manny Yekutiel: I grew up in Los Angeles in a religious Jewish family. My father, originally from Herat, Afghanistan, is a helicopter mechanic and my mother, originally from Brooklyn, is a bankruptcy lawyer. I have two sisters who both do social justice work. We were raised with the bedrock lessons of getting involved, giving back and doing good. My family would take these epic road trips across the county to see as many national parks as we could. I’m lucky I had parents who fed our wanderers’ spirit. 

    Lou Fischer: Observant Judaism and homosexuality hardly go together. How do you reconcile this dilemma?

    Manny Yekutiel: I knew I was gay from a very young age and had to find a path for myself without turning my back on my faith and beliefs. I still consider myself a religious Jew—I only eat kosher meat, pray daily and try very hard not to work on the Sabbath. It’s a very important part of who I am and I’m proud to be a part of San Francisco’s active Jewish community.

    Lou Fischer: What brought you to San Francisco? 

    Manny Yekutiel: I moved to San Francisco in November 2012. I had spent a foggy summer here in 2010 working as a street canvasser for EQCA’s same-sex marriage campaign and fell in love with San Francisco. When Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision came down, I was at City Hall, reveling in the jubilation of the couples who had been waiting to legalize their unions. After that summer, I knew I had to move back as soon as possible.

    Lou Fischer: What was the seminal moment that made you decide to create “Manny’s”?

    Manny Yekutiel: The 2016 election, both the lead-up and the results, catalyzed what is a once in a generation moment of civic awareness. So many people, especially young people, were paying attention and asking themselves: “What can I do to get more involved?”

    Lou Fischer: How would you describe Manny’s, and why did you focus on a full-service civic space instead of just pop-ups or limited events? 

    Manny Yekutiel: Manny’s is a social gathering space—a café, bar and restaurant with a political bookshop and a civic event space. I noticed there wasn’t anywhere in San Francisco that had consistent daily civic programming because so many of our activist coffee shops, bookstores, and bars are gone. There are still amazing spaces like 518 Valencia and the Women’s Building, and I see Manny’s as expanding on that model. I did four “pop-up” events in a variety of locations to test the market; the success of the events proved there was a demand for a space to gather informally and learn about real issues.

    Lou Fischer: How do you keep “Manny’s” inclusive and affordable? 

    Manny Yekutiel: It’s core to our mission that everything be affordable—food, beverages, the events and space rental. Everything on our coffee menu is under $4, beer and wine prices are $9 or less. We provide respite to the unhoused people in our community by offering free coffee or tea and access to our restrooms, no questions asked. The restaurant is run by the nonprofit “Farming Hope,” which runs an apprentice program for formerly incarcerated and formerly homeless individuals and places them into full-time employment. I’m so proud to be partnering with them.

    Lou Fischer: Tell me about the business plan. How can you be profitable with everything priced so low?

    Manny Yekutiel: The food and beverage revenue and event rentals do not cover our costs, I knew that going in. The model is a sponsorship program that consists of a community of individuals who support civic programming; this is what will keep us accessible to everyone.

    Lou Fischer: I’m proud to be one of your early sponsors. How many sponsors do you have? What is the goal and how do people sign up?

    Manny Yekutiel: Thanks for being one of our early contributors. We have approximately 250 sponsors now. Our goal is 500 sponsors at $36 per month, and if that is too much for someone, we’ll accept whatever amount they can contribute. The link to sign up is:

    Lou Fischer: Why not just take corporate sponsorship? Wouldn’t that be easier?

    Manny Yekutiel: I want the space to be powered by people, not companies. Access and affordability are core to what we’re doing. It’s not about the money; it’s about the work. We’re unique and want to keep it that way.

    Lou Fischer: How do you get such great programs and so many famous people? You’ve already had 16 of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.

    Manny Yekutiel: We hustle, make a lot of phone calls/texts/emails, stitch together our networks of friends, co-workers and activists, and do a lot of reaching out. I have to give a shout-out to Jupiter Peraza, my head of programming. She’s amazing and has brought us to the next level. 

    Lou Fischer: How did Manny’s become the go-to spot for political and social justice causes in only nine months? Was it luck, good timing or do you have super powers? 

    Manny Yekutiel: If I had super-powers, I’d conjure up a boyfriend. [Note from Lou: “Manny is a single, well-educated, nice Jewish boy; make your mother happy. Ask him out!”]. Our success is from a combination of things. We’re centrally located, we offer an affordable space, we never turn anyone away for lack of funding and we were a market fit. Clearly there was a need for a space like ours. We’re booked every night, and on some days, we have multiple events.

    Lou Fischer: Thanks for your time and congratulations on your success. You have truly embraced the Jewish spirit of “Tikkun Olam” (Repairing the World). 

    Manny Yekutiel: Thanks, Lou. I certainly didn’t do it alone. I’m grateful to my staff, sponsors, patrons and everyone else who is making Manny’s successful.

    “Manny’s” by the Numbers

    2 years – The time needed to create “Manny’s” from idea to opening night

    9 months – Length of time “Manny’s” has been open

    12 – Approximate number of full-time staff members

    $36 – Monthly pledge to be a “Manny’s” sponsor

    250 – Number of sponsors so far

    500 – Goal for number of sponsors 

    350 – Approximate number of events since opening night

    16 – Number of 2020 presidential candidates who have held an event at Manny’s

    200-ish – Total capacity of the space (including front rooms)

     Louise (Lou) Fischer is a Former Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club and has served as an appointed and elected Delegate for the State Democratic Party. She is a proud graduate of the Emerge California Women’s Democratic Leadership program, was a San Francisco Commissioner and has served in leadership positions in multiple nonprofit and community-based organizations.


    Farming Hope at Manny’s

    Farming Hope is a culinary program and social movement promoting self-sufficiency by removing barriers to employment in kitchens and gardens. The vision is to transform lives and rebuild communities through a just food system.

    Farming Hope’s mission is to employ and empower neighbors looking for a path to self-sustainability through growing, cooking and serving plant-based food. The organization offers a 12-week training program for apprentices that have experienced homelessness, incarceration and other barriers to employment.

    Throughout the program, apprentices learn skills in gardening and cooking and work towards sustainable employment. The goal is to provide the opportunity for all apprentices to empower themselves into self-sustaining work.

    At Manny’s, Farming Hope has created a California Middle Eastern-inspired menu that focuses on high quality, seasonal produce. Stop by and try it for yourself!

    Farming Hope’s Menu at Manny’s:

    Cocktail Bites from 4 pm to 10 pm:

    Weekend Brunch:

    More on Farming Hope:


    Coming Up at Manny’s

    August 22 @ 6:30 pm – Local Leaders Series: Assemblymember and San Francisco Bay Times columnist Phil Ting

    August 24 @ 2 pm – Presidential Town Hall with Senator Michael Bennet

                        5 pm – JSA’s Meet the Mayor: An Evening with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf

    August 26 @ 6 pm – Meet the 2020 Candidate: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

    August 27 @ 6:30 pm – Ending Hunger in San Francisco

    August 29 @ 6:30 pm – Book Talk: How Assad Destroyed Syria

    September 7 @ 11 am – Brunch with Equality California Womxn

    September 8 @ 3 pm – Queer music day at Manny’s

    September 22 @ 6:30 pm – Free Press Music at Manny’s

    September 25 @ 5 pm – Businesses for Social and Environmental Change Networking Event

    September 26 @ 6:30 pm – The Mayor of Oakland in Conversation: Libby Schaaf

    September 30 @ 6:30 pm – What happens to all our trash? A Chat with Recology CEO Mike Sangiacomo

    October 1 @ 6:30 pm – How to Take Back the Supreme Court

    For information on these and other events, and to purchase tickets, go to: