The North Beach location of El Farolito is suddenly expected to open “any day now,” after an eight-month battle over SF formula retail rules. A compromise deal has greased the skids for the taqueria to open near Grant Avenue and Broadway.
It was back in August when we learned that local legend taqueria chain El Farolito was opening a North Beach location. But just a month later, it seemed the deal wouldn't amount to beans. San Francisco formula retail rules said there were too many El Farolito locations, and the chain’s 11 Bay Area locations had similar signage and menus that constituted some sort of McDonald’s-like menace. This super charged the debate over SF formula retail rules, because come on… El Farolito is absolutely a small and locally owned business!
San Francisco’s El Farolito, the Mission District restaurant that was temporarily blocked from opening in North Beach due to the city’s ban on chain stores in that neighborhood, has overcome that challenge — and will open any day now.https://t.co/HoODypkBmy— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) April 6, 2022
But North Beach burrito fans, you’ll finally get the whole enchilada. The Chronicle reports on a compromise deal that will allow the North Beach El Farolito to open, and that the new North Beach taqueria “will open any day now.”
Iconic burrito meet iconic neighborhood! We were delighted to be of assistance in welcoming El Farolito to North Beach.— Aaron Peskin (@AaronPeskin) April 6, 2022
You can bet I’ll be eating a carne asada super burrito w extra jalapeños very soon 🌯🥵😜https://t.co/SoM0I1v7sY
“All is well that ends well and a vacant space is about to open with a new and popular restaurant in the recovering North Beach corridor and everybody can’t wait,” the North Beach district’s supervisor Aaron Peskin, who apparently helped broker the deal, tells the Chronicle. “The bottom line is at a time like this the city needs to be a better partner to a business like El Farolito.”
The Lopez family that owns the chain did not return comment to the Chronicle on the store's opening. But the Chronicle notes that the “The yellow awning is up at 1230 Grant Avenue, across Fresno alley from the Saloon watering hole, and the opening is pending a final permit approval by the San Francisco Department of Public Health.”
The issue with El Farolito was the chain had 11 locations throughout the Bay Area, and 11 is the exact number that gets a chain classified as formula retail under San Francisco’s 17-year-old formula retail ban (which applies to North Beach, Chinatown, and multiple other "Neighborhood Commercial Districts"). Some of the other outlets had names like “El Favorito,” but the SF Planning Department deemed them all too similar, and denied the necessary permit in September.
But that denial was not permanent, it just forced El Farolito to go back to the drawing board. And according to the Chronicle, “That technicality was overcome by some modifications to signage at other outlets in the chain.”
This is definitely a win for Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who can bill himself as the Supreme negotiator who won El Farolito their permits while keeping the formula retail rules intact. But it’s more of a win for North Beach late-night revelers, who will be able to enjoy arguably San Francisco’s best burrito when it had seemed like the chips were stacked against El Farolito.
Photo: Danny Sauter