Supervisor David Campos hosted a meeting recently on possible changes to the Mission's liquor moratorium.

At a recent community meeting it was clear that Mission residents are split over potential changes to the neighborhood’s 18-year-old moratorium on liquor licenses. Supervisor David Campos promised to hold more public meetings before agreeing to any amendments.

“The question that I have is, are we OK with the way it is?” Campos asked the crowd.

Yes, three people in the audience quickly answered.

“I would like to get more info about statistics that put it into place,” another person said.

Business owners were all in favor of more alcohol and more ease in selling it. Having a full bar is the only way small businesses can compete with new establishments moving into the Mission, they said, and the moratorium makes it difficult to buy a liquor license.

“You cannot stay in business only selling food,” one business owner said.

“What do we do to survive as a mom-and-pop when people don’t come in to buy sweets any more?” another asked. “If we didn’t own a bar in District 8, we wouldn’t survive.”

But many residents felt differently. “We’re being flooded with alcohol,” said one. “How will this change improve public health?”

The Mission Alcoholic Beverage Special Use District was put in place in the mid-1990s, in part because residents were concerned about public drunkenness and crime.

Then-Supervisor Susan Leal proposed making a temporary ban permanent. “Mission residents and businesspeople have been troubled for years about the problems of crime, loitering and harassment outside liquor stores,” Leal said at the time. “We are now putting into place permanent legislation to … make the Mission a safer place to live.”

But the ban hasn’t stopped liquor from pouring into the neighborhood. Since it went into effect in 1996, data gathered from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control shows that 156 restaurants have been licensed to sell beer and wine in the neighborhood, 39 restaurants obtained a full liquor license, two new bars have opened and three more stores sell beer and wine.

That’s because the ban restricts new liquor licenses but doesn’t prevent a business owner from buying a license from elsewhere in the city. The ban does not apply to beer and wine licenses.

The Mission’s moratorium is the city’s oldest ban on liquor licenses and also the strictest, AnMarie Rodgers, manager for legislative affairs at the San Francisco Planning Department, told residents at the meeting.

Allowing businesses to transfer liquor licenses within or out of the Mission District could make it easier for businesses, Rodgers said.

Transfers are allowed in other neighborhoods, including the Haight, where a similar moratorium has been in place since the mid-1990s. The Mission’s moratorium prohibits liquor license transfers.

As previously reported by Mission Loc@l, several recently opened establishments, including West of Pecos, Mission Bowling Club and Tacolicious, were able to transfer licenses from within the neighborhood or from other areas of the city because at least 50 percent of their revenue is from food sales.

While allowing transfers was important to many business owners at the meeting, most residents worried that the practice would only bring more alcohol into the neighborhood.

“The issue is that we see a lot of people drunk on the street,” said one man.

“They bought the alcohol at a store, not at a restaurant,” said another audience member. “They sell to anybody. To me that’s more detrimental.”

“Why is it important to have more alcohol?” asked a man who brought his young daughter to the meeting. “Why not have healthier foods?”

“I’m really concerned about the preservation of the neighborhood,” he added.

“As a community, we still have to pick up the pieces,” a woman said. “You know how Mission Street and Valencia Street are on a Friday or Saturday night. It’s wild out there.”

“If they’re intoxicated, you can’t serve people. They can be shut down,” Rodgers said.

“But they do,” two people answered.

“Enforcement seems like it’s a big issue today,” Rodgers said, adding that budget cuts have decreased the city’s ability to properly penalize businesses that don’t follow liquor sales laws.

But things will get better, she said. A few years ago there was no enforcement team; today, four people are responsible for enforcement in the city. That means employees can’t go check on establishments but will respond to complaints, she said.

But residents were still concerned about potential changes to a ban that some said is not appropriately enforced as it is.

“If the legislation changes, how can we be confident that things will be regulated?” someone asked.

The discussion then turned to gentrification.

“With all the gentrification, we’re just opening the door to more boutique, high-end places,” a woman said. “My Brownies don’t go to Bi-Rite.”

“No matter what color you are, alcohol is going to affect you,” replied Erick Arguello, president of the Lower 24th Street Merchants and Neighbors Association.

“The intent in ’96 was public health, it was to save our kids. It doesn’t matter if they’re Latino, Samoan or white. But who gets hit first? It’s the low-income kids.”

“The overall goal here is public health,” a man in the audience said.

Wrapping up the meeting, Campos promised that no changes would be made without a community consensus.

“I don’t feel like I’m at a point where I can make changes to the legislation,” he said. “There remains the question, should anything change?”

Campos said he plans to hold more public meetings, but no dates have been announced at this time. Mission Loc@l will publish the dates as soon as they are available.

Hélène Goupil

Hélène Goupil is a former editor at Mission Local who now works independently as a videographer and editor. She's the co-author of "San Francisco: The Unknown City" (Arsenal Pulp Press).

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34 Comments

  1. Man, I’m sorry I missed this. I’m going to call Campos and tell him to maintain the ban. I don’t buy that you cant stay in business and this neighborhood is swimming in likker. We don’t need more purveyors of alcohol.

    1. if half of the seedy corner stores in the neighborhood were replaced by corner stores that didn’t sell liquor and the other half were replaced by moderately priced-upscale bars, there would be fewer people drinking on the streets. the alcohol fueled violence in the mission isnt coming from bar/restaurant patrons and we all know that.

      1. Actually, I don’t know that what you say is true. I think the answer is more nuanced.

        I have some experience with the Surenos. They can be a nasty lot. Alcohol and drug-fueled violence is a problem for them. Actually, violence is a problem regardless of intoxicants.

        But this doesn’t excuse the crowd hanging out at Beretta or Medjool. They pee on my house just like anyone else. They break car windows and laugh. They are loud and obnoxious. Their cigarette butts are all over.

        And a walk down Valencia street early Sunday morning will tell you we have a lot of work to do to get these bar and restaurant owners to clean up after their patrons. I’ll put kudos here to Luna Park because they always seem to be out there early cleaning up. Wish the rest of the owners would follow Luna Park’s lead.

        If neighborhood health is the guide, we’ve got plenty of alcohol.

        If the real driver is that landlords are raising the rent because they think they can get more rent out of a bar than out of a health food store, welcome to capitalism. Mr. Campos, we need the government, as our representative, to restrict the alcohol licenses so that more space is available for health food stores. I agree that this position would be “bad” for business, but it’s a neighborhood, for goodness sake.

        1. Would you be an owner of one of these fine restaurants, an internet commenter or both?
          There is too much alcohol in the Mission and it should be toned down a bit.

    2. You know who probably has a pretty good handle on what it takes to keep a restaurant in business in the Mission? Hint: it’s not internet commenters. Most likely, it’s people who…run restaurants in the Mission.

      In any case…what do you even mean by “swimming in likker?”

      1. I mean that there is a ton of alcohol in the Mission and that people partake of it freely and that alcohol consumption is a major factor in noise and crappy behavior.

  2. RE: “With all the gentrification we’re just opening the door to more boutique, high-end places. My Brownies don’t go to Bi-rite,” a woman said.

    Brownies??! :O Is that a rank of girl scout or…?

    1. ‘Brownies’ is an organization of little kids too young to be ‘Girl Scouts.’ Purchasing alcohol is utterly out of the question where these juveniles are concerned, yet it is worth inquiring whether these kids are instructed to avoid being morbidly obese in light of all the new statistics about rising obesity rates amongst young children. That snide remark notwithstanding, ‘Bi Rite’ in the Mission is one of the best places to find healthy treats.

      1. A OK, I just thought it was a strange comment, especially in the context of gentrification I wasn’t sure if the poster meant the organization of little kids or something else.

  3. Seriously….more alcohol?

    The problem is not coming from the local drunk who hangs out in front of the liquor stores in the area, although they are part of issue.

    The bigger problem are the large numbers of people who get drunk at the many restaurants and dive bars that have been gentrified. Many of the patrons for some reason love to loud talk in front of the restaurants and bars creating noise issues that they would never stand for in their neighborhoods.

    Check out the activities on a Thurs-Sun night and you will see that the loud drunks are the ones who know better.

    Why bend the rules that were put in place for good reason?

    Supervisor Campos…..please don’t let a few people who dictate once again the plans for the Mission District.

    1. Cee- yes. I literally kept getting woken up the other night by loud consumers of alcohol yakking on their cell phones and screaming “whoo!” for no apparent reason.

      We need to keep the ban in place AND the city should launch- or we, the people who live here should launch- a neighborhood quieting campaign.

      I have the perfect slogan. “The Mission isn’t noisy- YOU are. Please be quiet.”

      I’d love to see these signs posted up along Mission streets. Thinking of putting one in my window.

          1. Using fear now? You can get mugged anywhere at anytime.

            Since I have never been mugged in the Mission I am more concerned about the loud drunk from one of the restaurants using my house as a urinal every weekend.

    2. The drunk bro friday night is loud and unruly, sure.

      He’s not the one who broke into your car last month.

      He’s not the one who mugged my friend on his stoop last week.

      He’s not the one who harassed your female cousin at a bus stop yesterday, then stole her phone when she turned her back.

  4. I agreevith Old Mission Neighbor — I’d gladly trade a number of those seedy corner stores selling cheap vodka and potato chips for a few more new restaurants and bars. It’s a shame those long time owners of corner stores can’t cash-out by selling their license.

  5. Every day, I walk past liquor stores on 24th that have drunks congregated around them, either upright or horizontal, with mini liquor bottles and malt liquor cans littering the street. how about taking away the licenses from the stores that abuse it now? then we could discuss new purveyors.

    1. Yes. I agree- I think there are a bunch of liquor stores that don’t deserve the right to sell alcohol- I live across the street from one, and the owners of the liquor store actually issue “credit” to the drunkos, meaning that they can wander in, get their forty ouncer and then hang out in front, all on credit.
      I’ve complained about this place numerous times to both the ABC and the Mission Police Station, which has done a decent job of tamping down on the insanity. But, due to the fact that there’s a single ABC investigator for most of the Mission and Bayview, nothing has changed.

  6. Let’s call it equal on the liquor problems: the hipster kids getting drunk on Valencia and the middle age dudes in front of the liquor stores are BOTH problematic.

    However, I don’t think it’s high end places such as Bi-rite causing alcohol problems in this neighborhood. Give me a break.

    1. If you go out on a weekend night at 2 am, the drunk hipsters, and bar patrons out number the bums 20 to 1.
      The quote about bi-rite was more based on gentrification. How do you think the rents around the Bi-Rite area have been affected by it’s presence? If a Bi-rite and a nice restaurant move to 23rd and bryant for example some people who live there could be priced out and I think that would be a problem for those families/individuals.

      1. Look, I live near Dear Mom and I really hate the drunk idiots coming down my street at 2 am waking my baby up. But I also hate the drunken creeps (they don’t seem to be homeless, just sort of hanging out and drinking) outside of places as I walk around the neighborhood.

        I don’t want to price people out of the neighborhood, but I am more ok with more restaurants serving liquor (be they taquerias serving beer or high end places) because people don’t tend to get trashed at restaurants.

      2. Or, you know, maybe someone who can afford to live near a Bi-Rite should get that apartment at 23rd and bryant…

  7. If Scott Wiener is in favor then it must be a great idea! He always thinks about the little guy and not developers. Thanks Scott your just like Harvey Milk!

  8. We need to keep the ban. Just because a few business’s want liquor licenses does not mean we disregard the residents , non-profits, other business’s. Not all business’s want alcohol. Business’s would be affected by their neighbors selling hard liquor, restaurant or bar or store

    Its about making money on the backs and detriment of a community.

    1. I think there’s also a great case to make for the Mission becoming a younger and more successful community.

      As such, we have a high demand for bars, nice restaurants, etc. Having those things brings more of us here.

      Having more of us here keeps the grocery stores, small businesses, etc in business. You need all of these things to build a vibrant community for the kind of people who can afford to live in the Mission now.

        1. Tech Yuppies and proto yuppies are moving into the mission.

          We want bars.

          We also buy stuff, thus enhancing local businesses.

          Bring in more bars, more of us come in, and we get a richer and more prosperous community.

          1. So you thinks that the previous residents were as you described?

            You have a warped sense of who most of the residents were which is a shame.

            At least you are honest about your feelings.

    2. I will grant you this….you are funny. However the neighborhood should not be a one trick pony.

      By the way thank you for making the Mission a great place to live.

      So are you suggesting that we asked all of the old fish to leave the area at once?

      Next lifetime I want to be the man like you.

  9. Keep the ban as is. There are far too many liquor stores in District 9 & outlying areas all ready. If anything, liquor stores need to be shut down if they are not selling more than 50% of non-liquor products, same as in a restaurant/cafe. Any time of day in District 9 you can see the drunks & other lowlifes hanging around 16th & 24th St BART stations & in the nearby parks. Particularly worse on welfare day.

    As for gentrification, the new business/property owners are alot better than the schlock/tenements that was there before. Keep them coming.

  10. My question to those who complain about the people who drink along 24th Street is this: why are you coming into the Inner Mission if this is the way that you think that it is? The Inner Mission does have problems as do many parts of the city. However, the people who are giving us a bad reputation are those who frequent Valencia Street. I am certain that few, if any, of the transferred liquor licenses are being issued to businesses east of Valencia Street

  11. I live directly on Cesar Chavez there’s been a lot of jackhammering going on. They’ve also been doing construction on the street for the past 18 months or so, continuously, starting every day at 7am.

    Buncha fuckin crybabies “whaaa the frat boy yelled WHOO on his phone and peed” gtfo.

  12. The current system, whereby any entity with patience and a barrel of money can get an exception to the no-more-booze-rule, is not ideal.

    But, the real estate tycoons who run this city like it this way…

    It is, in effect, an automatic mechanism which slowly gets rid of corner “liquor stores” frequented by unterdrunks, and replaces them with artisinal-millionaire-hipster wining and dining esablishments.

    This has the desired end effect of increasing the yield on property investments.

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