“It’d be a huge mistake for folks to let their guard down now,” said San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston.
Over the past seven months 1,414 notices of violations, or NOVs, were issued to restaurants, bars and other food facilities across the city for failing to comply with COVID regulations, according to the San Francisco Dept. of Public Health.
95-percent of those businesses were cited multiple times. Most of violations were issued for large crowding indoors and outdoors, lack of social distancing, lack of face coverings, or serving alcohol without a bonafide meal.
“That’s the kind of thing that we educate on, but it should not be a repeat problem,” said Maggie Weiland, who oversees the county’s Community Education and Response Team or CERT that investigates complaints of COVID-19 violations.
Weiland explains the violation hot spots are the Marina, North Beach, and Mission districts.
“There were businesses that we educated maybe ten times, a lot,” she said. “So, we created a new standard procedure to ensure CERT was not going out more than twice.”
The ABC7 I-Team requested a list from the San Francisco Dept. of Public Health for every business that was cited multiple times for health order violations, but the county only provided the names of a few businesses that declined our interview requests.
The businesses that did respond, included the White Rabbit Bar and Balboa Café located in the city’s Marina District. Both businesses are part of the PlumpJack group, which is partially owned by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Combined, the two PlumpJack entities received 10 verified health order complaints for issues like crowding, lack of social distancing, and serving alcohol without a bonafide meal.
It’s important to note, Newsom placed his ownership interests in PlumpJack into a blind trust. This means he doesn’t have any knowledge or role in any business decisions. However, records show he is profiting from each of the companies cited.
The ABC7 I-Team reached out to the PlumpJack Group for further comment and received the following statement:
“We have already addressed the concerns regarding White Rabbit by adding more security and staff to strictly enforce social distancing protocols in our parklet and the areas adjacent to the business. We aren’t perfect, but we take these concerns very seriously. We will continue to adjust our protocols as San Francisco reopens, the weather gets warmer, and more people gather in groups,” said Joe Arellano, spokesman for the PlumpJack Group.
“Everyone needs to comply with these requirements, no one is above the rules,” said Preston. “By in large, most folks are complying, if they’re not, it’s a problem.”
In the beginning of the pandemic, Weiland and her team received around 90 complaints about health order violations per week. Now, that’s down to 15 complaints per week.
“We all have to do our part,” said Wen Geng, the owner of Chinese Cuisine in the city’s Financial District. “If you don’t, that’s not fair.”
A majority of the 22 businesses forced to temporarily close since October have since reopened.
The city’s CERT team has started to reduce its operations at night and during weekends, but is still assisting the county during the week.
If you’d like to file a complaint about health order violations, dial 3-1-1 to report the situation to the Department of Public Health’s Environmental Health Branch. The CERT team is no longer receiving direct complaints, but will still be assisting with enforcement.
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