On Wednesday we reported that beloved S.F. fixture The Tamale Lady was no longer welcome to sell her tamales at Zeitgeist, sparking a furor among her fans and supporters. Two days later, more options have emerged for Virginia Ramos, who was asked to desist from vending her tamales to hungry bar patrons on the grounds that she did not have a permit.
An annual health inspection went down at Zeitgeist recently, and as with other establishments that allow unpermitted food sales, Zeitgeist could face penalties. "They could close the kitchen, and if they do that, then we have to close down everything because we need a kitchen to sell alcohol,” Zeitgeist general manager Mareike Pittman told Uptown Almanac.
"Our health inspector has told her numerous times that she needed a permit," says Faye DeGuzman of the SFPHD, who points out that they are just enforcing their regulatory responsibilities. DeGuzman says that for Virginia to operate aboveboard, she will need a catering permit that costs $350 a year and a commercial kitchen to work out of, and she will have to sell her tamales at a restaurant or bar permitted for food service.
The may come as cold comfort to tamale fans, but take heart: District 9 Supervisor David Campos is on the case. Campos' office has vowed to find a solution to Virginia's predicament, even saying that they may have found a loophole involving corn husks as "prepackaging". (This sounds like a stretch to us.) The SFPHD confirms that Campos and other supervisors have contacted them in search of a solution.
We spoke to Virgina today, and she confirmed that Campos has reached out to her and is helping her to find a solution. Virginia says that they met yesterday and she will be attending a meeting on Thursday with Campos and others at City Hall. In the meantime, Mission-based non-profit food incubator La Cocina has reached out to her and she is aware that they represent a viable option for her business.
Virginia is cautiously optimistic about her future prospects, and appreciates the outpouring of support, even as the idea of changing her business operation is daunting. "I'm not young any more," she told us. "But I'm a strong woman and I'm a fighter so I hang on."
Virginia will be raising money for the future as well as celebrating at her 65th birthday party at the Eagle Tavern on June 21. "I want the city to come to my birthday," she says. "Chicken mole, tamales, live music and me!"