Aug 8, 2016

Richmond Mayor Tom Butt reported stunning news Monday: That popular Marina Bay restaurant Salute e Vita Ristorante, owned by the charitable Menbere Aklilu, has received a 30-day notice to vacate the building by its property owner Penterra Company.

The mayor suspects Richard Poe, a Florida resident and owner of Panterra Company, may be evicting Aklilu and her restaurant in retaliation against the city over a proposed Marina Bay development.

Poe has been upset with Mayor Butt and city officials for blocking his plan to build The Richmond Riviera, a lower density housing project on the waterfront. The city rejected the project on the grounds that it was inconsistent with the Richmond General Plan.

Poe also failed in attempts to pass Measures N and O in the June election. One of the measures would have amended the Richmond General Plan to allow for Poe’s development, while the other would have reduced the Richmond city manager’s compensation.

In response to Salute’s notice to vacate, a press conference on Tuesday protesting Panterra Company’s action will be held at Salute Ristorante, 1900 Esplanade Drive, at 10 a.m., Mayor Butt said.

It was only last week that we reported about Aklilu’s inspiring background and her many contributions to the community. After escaping an abusive relationship as a single mother, she worked her way up from hostess to general manager at Salute’s and eventually purchased the restaurant, which has become a launching pad for her good deeds in Richmond, West County and beyond.

The mayor called Aklilu a local celebrity for her charitable works and “compelling personal story of abuse and homelessness.”

“She delivered the commencement speech at Holy Names University in 2013, received the Jefferson Award in 2015, provides a Thanksgiving feast for the homeless every year and was named to the Women’s Hall of fame by Senator Loni Hancock in 2016,” the mayor noted in his e-forum newsletter Monday afternoon.

Butt also listed some of Menbe’s local accomplishments:

  • Sponsored Menbe’s Way Fun, is managed by Richmond Community Foundation.
  • Donated to the Richmond Rescue Shelter.
  • Hosted annual Thanksgiving dinners for homeless families and individuals at Salute’s since 2011. In 2014 she expanded this dinner to include veterans from Oakland, Richmond and Marin County. Over the years she has developed the Thanksgiving dinner to include a health fair that provides flu shots and personal items for each attendee.
  • Hosted annual Mothers’ Day brunches for low income single mothers from the Pullman Point Apartments.
  • Provided jobs to young women who live in Pullman Point by hiring them for various positions at Salute e Vita.
  • Made substantial funding contributions East Bay Center for Performing Arts.
  • Makes continuous contributions to the Family Justice Center.
  • Holds regular etiquette classes at her restaurant for young women.


  1. What a shame – greed and politics —-

    Sherron Conway | Aug 8th, 2016
  2. If Mr. Poe is doing this in retaliation, its telling evidence of his personal character and integrity. I’d like to know more details. Maybe the community can step up and help this lady that has given so much.

    Maurice Abraham | Aug 8th, 2016
  3. Menbere Aklilu has been a powerful force for good in this community and beyond. I am completely stunned as has touched so many people. I pray she can bounce back and do something even greater as she follows her vision for a better world for all.

    John Roulac | Aug 8th, 2016
  4. Sad news, but I have no doubt this resilient and amazing woman will view it as little more than a “bump in the road.”

    John | Aug 8th, 2016
  5. This is very sad, but I know that she has Faith that things will all work out for her good. Great things happen to good people and she’s definitely one of them. This is just a test of another great testimony .

    Wyvonne Brown | Aug 8th, 2016
  6. This is sad news indeed and indicative of the way that Penterra seems to do business — heartlessly. I say this because I believe that this is the same company that forced the closure of the Pinole-Hercules little league ball fields back in the 1990’s rather than including (seemingly simple) an updated ball facility in their development plans! I am sad that Menbere has to deal with this political BS. However, she has a loyal following and many who love her. This being true, I am certain that Menbere will be successful no matter the outcome. SHAME ON PENTERRA for the (bordering on) unethical way that they do business! No sense of community and no heart!

    Debbie L. | Aug 8th, 2016
  7. Poe forced the deli out, now Salute. Good luck trying to get any other tenant in there. Why does she have a 30-day, month to month lease with the little jag off?

    FattyPoe | Aug 9th, 2016
  8. I pity whomever signs a lease with Poe/Penterra to replace Salute. The community is unlikely to frequent a business that’s in bed with him, given the way he’s treated Richmond.

    David C. | Aug 9th, 2016
  9. I am sure the entire Richmond is concerned about the pending eviction of Menbere Aklilu from The Salute location. Loss of this popular restaurant will be a terrible consequence blow to the community. Ms Aklilu has been an inspiration to so many families and young people. And for this to happen because of a political vendetta is unconscionable. I hope she can rise again in a another location to continue her exemplary work as a coscientious entrepreneur in Richmond.

    Mack Williams | Aug 9th, 2016
  10. I hope the city helps her find another location in Richmond. The City of Richmond needs more businesses like this and the City should help with the relocation. Gentrification at its finest!

    Gina Dacus | Aug 9th, 2016
  11. The Richmond Planning Department could pass a quick rezoning of the restaurant property so that if it changes hands or use it has to be open space. Eminent domain.

    There's always a way | Aug 9th, 2016
  12. This is awful. Been going here for years. The owner is a fabulous and generous person. This is totally unfair, inhumane and selfish. He’s probably a Trump supporter too!

    Linda Jacobs | Aug 9th, 2016
  13. Although I love Salutes food, I think the owner deserved this. On many occasions while I was dining at salutes I have seen the owner become verbally abbusive to her employees. I also know a few people who use to work for her and currently work for her, and they said she is a horrible boss due to the way she treats her employees. This is a beautiful restaurant, and I feel horrible for everyone who may lose a job, but I believe the owner needs to realize it’s not okay to treat your employees the way she does. Although she puts on a great act, I don’t believe anything she does is genuine. If it wasn’t for the great food and service, I would have NEVER returned to support this business.

    Jessica | Aug 9th, 2016
  14. Dear Richmond,
    There is no other single person who has done more for Richmond than Menbere and it has not just been her acts of generosity and kindness, it is the love she shares with us all. She has always been there for us and now we need to be there for her. I don’t know how to set up a Go Fund Me Page (I’m old) but I will be the first to contribute if someone will do it. We love you Menbere!

    Kathy Wallace | Aug 9th, 2016
  15. Linda, unfair!!!

    Dinah Roberts | Aug 9th, 2016
  16. how about we put our minds togeather and find her a spot to reopen!
    The Grand Salute!!!

    Jim Campbell | Aug 10th, 2016
  17. Aklilu, who is supposed to move out by Sept. 6, said she has already received offers to relocate her business to Oakland and Hercules. But she is intent on remaining in Richmond, the city that has been her home for close to two decades, and the restaurant where she got her humble start as a hostess earning $7 an hour before working her way up to maitre d’ and eventually becoming its owner.

    Junior Balis | Aug 14th, 2016

About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.