.The Origins of Bad Animal

The Santa Cruz destination is a fusion of rare and used books, natural wines and a rotating roster of chefs-in-residence

Andrew Sivak is the co-owner and founder of Bad Animal, part restaurant, part used bookstore in downtown Santa Cruz. Sivak and business partner Jess LoPrete grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and remained friends throughout the years. They initially took separate career paths: LoPrete became an executive chef in San Francisco before moving to Santa Cruz, where Sivak had been working on his Ph.D. in History of Consciousness at UCSC—he also moonlit as a book scout for Logos. When Logos closed, Sivak saw what he describes as a “condition of possibility.” In 2019, he reconnected with his longtime Michigan comrade and opened Bad Animal. He defines the popular spot as “polished and literary without being pretentious,” like an old-world library with a restaurant tucked into it. The restaurant is a culinary artist-in-residence program that showcases up-and-coming local chefs; a platform for new talent to gain recognition.
Bad Animal is open Wednesday-Sunday, noon-9pm (dinner is served 5-9pm; till 10pm on Friday and Saturday). GT hooked up with Sivak recently to learn more about the unique business.

How would you describe Bad Animal?

ANDREW SIVAK: We’re a Thai restaurant and natural wine bar housed inside an expansive and used rare bookshop. Here you can walk the stacks while music plays with a glass of wine in hand, handle rare manuscripts while tipsy then sit down for a fabulous meal. It’s less of a concept and more a way of life. 

How has your degree helped with business?

In the main, it hasn’t. The modern academic is, first and foremost, a bureaucratic animal, and there’s little about founding a small business which utilizes that skill set. Yes, we must occasionally interact with big bureaucracies, but this isn’t the sort of place that holds committee meetings to schedule more meetings. Running Bad Animal in the day-to-day requires a work ethic, ingenuity, sweeping knowledge, discipline and charisma that’s totally foreign to campus life.
 

1011 Cedar St., Santa Cruz, 831-900-5031; badanimalbooks.com.  

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