Thanks to a bill sponsored by state senator Mark Leno, San Francisco is about to get its first new liquor licenses in almost 80 years but only five of them. They're earmarked for new or existing restaurants on one of seven commercial corridors where there tend not to be any restaurants with general on-sale or "full" liquor licenses, with the idea being that businesses in these areas can't afford to buy licenses on the secondary market, as they're usually sold, these days averaging around $300,000 in SF.
As the Business Times reports, "The eligible neighborhoods are Third Street in the Bayview, outer Mission Street in the Excelsior, San Bruno Avenue, Ocean Avenue, Noriega Street, Taraval Street and Visitacion Valley. The licenses will be available directly from ABC for an application fee of $13,800 and will be non-transferable."
There's sure to be some heavy clamoring in those neighborhoods for these incredibly cheap liquor licenses, and Leno hopes this will be a boon for the neighborhoods as well.
"Many people in these areas don’t like the idea of having to leave their neighborhood to get a certain type of restaurant experience," says Ben Van Houten, city program manager on nightlife and entertainment, speaking to the Business Times. "They would much rather support businesses in their own neighborhoods and this license is one tool to try to create these kinds of neighborhood commercial corridors."
The weirdness and seeming scarcity around liquor licenses here dates back to a state law passed in 1939 that declared that cities could only have one general on-sale license for every 2,000 residents. That would have limited SF to only 418 licenses at our current population, but at the time the law was passed there were already around 1,000 licenses issued here, which were all grandfathered in and transferrable. Those same licenses are the ones that continue to be bought and sold on the secondary market, and their value has risen greatly driven by our local restaurant economy in neighborhoods like the Mission, Hayes Valley and the Financial District. But $300,000 is a steep price for a mom-and-pop business in one of these more "outer" neighborhoods, a problem that the new licenses hope to solve.
Only five though? Van Houten says they asked for 28, but for now, we have to settle for five.