A smoldering mystery

The Sacramento Fire Department is searching for a suspect behind the June arson at Queen of Sheba, but recent history has some worried about the motive, too

For years Queen of Sheba has brought North African cuisine and a taste of the world to Broadway. But now some in the community are worried the restaurant’s cultural significance may also have been the reason it was targeted by a suspected arson.

The blaze at the popular Ethiopian dining hub broke out in the early morning hours of June 24.

Sacramento Fire Department Captain Keith Wade said the flames mainly damaged the restaurant’s exterior and front entrance. Wade confirmed the incident is being investigated as an arson. That conclusion is based, in part, on footage from a security camera at Loyalty Pawn, which shows a suspect starting the fire before running away on foot.

Owner Zion Taddese told reporters she doesn’t know why anyone would target Queen of Sheba, though investigators have not ruled out a hate crime.

This week, Wade told SN&R that his department hasn’t linked the Queen of Sheba crime with any other recent commercial fires or arsons.

That hasn’t stopped the restaurant’s supporters from worrying on social media that it may be the latest business owned by a person of color in Sacramento to be targeted for that very reason.

In 2017, MoMo’s Meat Market and Supreme Barber Lounge were both vandalized with racial slurs and swastikas spray-painted on the walls. Several months later, two Sacramento-area mosques and the local Council on American-Islamic Relations were all targeted for various types of hate crimes. In 2018, menacing racist graffiti was discovered in a bathroom at Sacramento City College and, in May, leaflets with a swastika were drone-dropped on an event at Sacramento State University.

While it’s so far unclear what motivated the arson at Queen of Sheba, the community is rallying around the small business. As of June 25, a GoFundMe account had raised nearly $9,000 for Queen of Sheba, which expects to reopen this week.