SF Mayor Breed to propose retail curfew aimed at curtailing crime in the Tenderloin

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Proposed curfew on retail businesses in Tenderloin

San Francisco Mayor London Breed proposed legislation that would implement a curfew for retailers in the Tenderloin neighborhood.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced plans on Tuesday to institute a curfew in a part of the Tenderloin in order to help curb crime in the area, the Mayor's office confirmed. 

Breed will introduce legislation to the Board of Supervisors later today. The legislation would prohibit some retail businesses that sell prepackaged food or tobacco products from operating after midnight and before 5 a.m. 

The San Francisco Police Department supports the plan. 

"Our challenges still occur at night," said Assistant Chief David Lazar. "Crowds of people who are there selling stolen property, selling narcotics. We have drug users all over. And the problem is that when you have businesses that are open, like liquor stores and smoke shops, it just attracts more people."

The Mayor's office says this legislation is meant as another tool to help combat drug-related crime in the Tenderloin, which negatively impact residents nearby. Residents have complained that the late-night operations of retail shops are likely contributing to the drug markets in the Tenderloin.

Tim Benson, the manager of Azalina's, said restaurants in the area typically operate into the late evening. He worries that customers or employees feel threatened. 

Benson said he hopes the city could step in and help businesses that might have to cut their hours, but he thinks that the curfew could help in areas where drug users and dealers congregate.

"The police have been much more active, the (Department of Public Works) has been out helping the cleanup effort," said Benson. "But, it seems to be mostly a daytime effort. At nighttime, it's still the wild west."

This legislation is also the latest step in the Drug Market Agency Coordination Center strategy that hopes to disrupt and dismantle open-air drug markets. Here's how it would work:

Retail establishments like corner stores, liquor stores and smoke shops would be required to stop offering products to the public from 12 a.m. to 5 a.m. Restaurants, bars and event halls would not be included in this curfew. 

The chunk of Tenderloin that would be impacted by the legislation includes the area between O'Farrell and McAllister streets and from Polk to Jones streets. The proposed 20-square-block area can be seen in the map below:

Every hour that a store is open in violation of the ordinance will earn the business an administrative citation and a fine of up to $1,000. Warnings will be offered for each hour after the initial violation, but there is no maximum number of fines. 

The ordinance would also allow the San Francisco City Attorney to file a lawsuit against any store that repeatedly stays open during the curfew. Breed's office says this is not aimed at punishing small businesses but at improving the area for residents. 

"Tenderloin residents, businesses, and workers deserve safe streets not just during the day, but also at night," said Mayor London Breed. "We are working with and listening to the community as we continue our efforts to make the Tenderloin safer for everyone. This is an idea for the community, from the community. The drug markets happening at night in this neighborhood are unacceptable and must be met with increased law enforcement and new strategies. We are coordinating these efforts across agencies and with community so that we can make deep and lasting changes in this neighborhood."

KTVU's Christien Kafton contributed to this report.