UPDATED: New Mission Brewpubs Can’t Serve Hard Liquor

Mission District brewpubs may no longer get hard liquor licenses, and neighborhood restaurants chasing an alcohol license will face more red tape.

UPDATE 10/22/18: The owners of Mission Bowling Club, Sommer Peterson and Molly Bradshaw, dispute the allegation made the Planning Committee hearing that the venue is unwelcoming to people of color. Further, they claim that Roberto Hernandez, the neighborhood activist who spoke at last week’s hearing, was merely expressing a personal opinion, not quoting the words of a Mission Bowling Club owner or employee.

UPDATE, 10/22/18: This story has been updated with comment from Sup. Hillary Ronen and the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development to reflect that new brewpubs in the described district would be barred from serving hard alcohol.

The Mission is removing the welcome mat for craft brewery taprooms that hope to serve hard liquor, and creating complex new hurdles for high-end restaurants looking for liquor licenses in the neighborhood. The San Francisco Planning Commission unanimously approved new rules Thursday proposed by the neighborhood’s supervisor Sup. Hillary Ronen that would ban new brewpubs from serving hard liquor, and create new restrictions on bars and restaurants that serve alcohol in the Mission District.

According to the Examiner, the area affected by these new rules stretches “roughly from 14th Street to Cesar Chavez Avenue and from Potrero Avenue to Mission Street.”

Sup. Ronen clarifies to SF Weekly that this is not a full ban on brewpubs in that area. “Let me be clear. I support local breweries and I think they’re a great business model,” she tells us in a statement. “The only change this legislation makes is to close a loophole to disallow local breweries from serving hard alcohol.”

San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development spokesperson Gloria Chan adds, “The proposal bans the sale of hard liquor at brew pubs; however, the brewpubs can still brew and sell beer and wine on site.”

This legislation aims to protect existing tenants, small businesses, and legacy businesses.

“The Mission is historically working class,” Sup. Ronen’s legislative aide Amy Beinart said before the vote. “Despite this rich cultural history and being home to many nonprofits, and community service organizations, art organizations, and so many legacy businesses, it is absolutely ground zero for displacement at this point.”

The latest batch of restrictions will require a special Conditional Use Authorization for restaurants that wish to serve alcohol, and prohibits new brewpubs within that area from serving hard liquor. It will also require a Conditional Use Authorization for new businesses replacing legacy businesses, and will “prohibit mergers of commercial space resulting in greater than 1,500 gross square feet. “

“The Mission District has the most alcohol outlets, as a neighborhood, than any other neighborhood in San Francisco,” said neighborhood activist Roberto Hernandez, citing a UCSF study.

While there has been a moratorium on new liquor licenses since 1996, that mostly applies to liquor stores and corner stores, while restaurants can get exemptions.

“There has been a number of exemptions that have been allowed,” Hernandez continued. “The Mission Bowling Club got an exemption and they got to serve alcohol. They had the audacity to say ‘Well, it’s not people of color that are going to come in here, it’s people with money that are going to come in here.’ That was an insult, that was a racial insult.”

UPDATE: Molly Bradshaw and Sommer Peterson, the owners of Mission Bowling Club, contacted Hernandez about his accusation, which they claim is both completely inaccurate and contrary to the venue’s years of community outreach. Peterson tells SF Weekly that, in a conversation lasting near 50 minutes, Hernandez said that the alleged quote about a Mission Bowling Club staffer saying people of color were not welcome was not in fact a quote, but simply an articulation of Hernandez’s personal feelings after a 2012 visit to Mission Bowling Club. SF Weekly has reached out to Hernandez.

“The [El Techo de Lolinda] rooftop got an exemption. I can go on and on and on,” Hernandez said. “Why put a moratorium if you’re not going to respect it?”

Only one person spoke against the new regulations. “I have found that the Mission wouldn’t be what it is without the brewing community that exists there,” said one local brewer who identified himself as Antonio. “It’s given this generation something to really look positively at and I would never want to take it from a neighborhood like the Mission.”

That wasn’t enough for the commissioners, who voted unanimously in favor of the proposal. “It does an incredible balancing act in times of great turmoil,” said commissioner Kathrin Moore, “The neighborhood is under constant threat of being undermined by projects that are too large.”

This probably means curtains for the proposed Foreign Cinema wine bar, which would exceed the 1,500 square foot rule. These restrictions will go to the Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee meeting on Monday, Oct. 22, and if approved, will then face a full Board of Supervisors vote.

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