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SF Supervisors Approve Midnight Curfew for Tenderloin Food, Retail Shops

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People walk through the Tenderloin neighborhood, a part of the 5th Supervisorial District, in San Francisco on April 5, 2024. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Updated at 3:10 p.m. Tuesday

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve a resolution that would require food and retail stores in the Tenderloin to close between midnight and 5 a.m. as part of Mayor London Breed’s effort to crack down on open-air drug markets in the neighborhood.

Initially, the proposal included liquor stores, but under amendments announced Monday by Supervisor Dean Preston, stores with liquor licenses will be exempt from the midnight curfew.

According to Breed’s proposal, put forth in April, the closures aim to reduce nighttime drug use and dealing in a highly trafficked part of the neighborhood where drug users and dealers gather and buy goods under the lights of the corner stores.


Kate Robinson, the executive director of the Tenderloin Community Benefit District, said that a business curfew is a necessary part of the larger effort to curtail drug markets.

“It would make it a harder environment to do illegal business, illegal activities around the drug trade and illegal vending because there isn’t this space to go in and get refreshments, get chips and having a space that really contributes to it,” Robinson told KQED.

Preston said that the original ordinance was “overly broad” and that limited hours could negatively impact some small business owners in the Tenderloin.

“Small businesses in the Tenderloin are struggling and deserve to be at the table for decisions impacting them,” he said in an April statement after Breed introduced the proposal.

In March, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance introduced by Preston that restricts the opening of new smoke shops in the Tenderloin, responding to concerns about drug paraphernalia often sold in such shops.

During Monday’s Land Use and Transportation Committee meeting, Preston announced the amendments to the proposal, including exemptions for corner and convenience stores with California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control licenses, which are allowed to operate until 2 a.m., as well as the addition of a six-month impact assessment of affected businesses and other protections.

Starlight Market, a 50-year-old convenience store on Ellis Street, is one of the stores that will be allowed to operate later under the amended ordinance. The market, owned by Ahmed and Mohammed El Barak, is usually open from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Ahmed said that the hours of midnight to 2 a.m. are integral to Starlight’s business.

“This is the two hours when a lot of people finish their work, like in a restaurant, and they come get their food and they get last minute alcohol,” he told KQED. Having to close at midnight could destroy his business, Ahmed said.

Mohammed said that people also come to Starlight Market during the late night hours because it feels like a safer place to be.

“People say, ‘We come here to feel safe,’” Mohammed said. “Would you rather be in a dark spot or lit spot? If we have this enacted policy, it’s just going to get darker. Think of it that way. The homeless are still on the streets. Would that make them any safer?”

During the Land Use and Transportation Committee’s meeting on Monday, many residents and merchants spoke in support of the proposal, including representatives of a letter signed by more than 500 Tenderloin residents urging the board to approve the curfew. Some people were critical of the amendments, saying that the overnight closures should begin earlier than 2 a.m., while others said the discrepancy between when retail and liquor stores will be required to close was unfair.

Committee members Aaron Peskin, Myrna Melgar and Preston voted unanimously to forward the proposal with the amendments to the Board of Supervisors, and on Tuesday, the board approved the ordinance unanimously. The Land Use and Transportation Committee will revisit the original proposal on July 1 for additional amendments.

Once the ordinance is officially approved and enacted by Breed, food and retail shops within a four-by-five-block area will be subject to the curfew. Stores that operate during restricted hours could be fined up to $1,000 an hour by the Department of Public Health.

KQED’s Sara Hossaini and Juan Carlos Lara contributed to this report.

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