By the time US Marshals evicted Farina Pizza from 18th and Valencia earlier this month, the restaurant had achieved a lengthy rap sheet with the Department of Health and the San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE). Most recently, it was racking up fines of $1,000 per day in administrative penalties for its failure to comply with the OLSE, totaling more than $43,000 by the end of November. Whether that debt, or many thousands more in allegedly unpaid rent, bills, and wages, will ever be paid remains to be seen.
Public documents from the Department of Health show that Farina’s management, as led by Luca Minna, was due to appear at an abatement conference tomorrow, December 12, to discuss outstanding health violations. The restaurant had a history of failure to appear at such abatement hearings going back to 2014, when the department even recommended that the pizzeria, along with nearby sister restaurant Farina Focaccia & Cucina Italiana which went dark this summer, have their permits to operate suspended.
That recommendation stemmed from Farina’s alleged failure to pay workers comp, $119,421 in civil penalties, and $10,000 in outstanding labor judgments regarding unpaid wages. By the time Farina Foccacia & Cucina Italiana closed, it reportedly owed $335,000 in back wages and taxes to 30 employees and city departments.
It wasn’t again until this summer that the department again came knocking at Farina’s door, checking up on the pizzeria’s adherence to the city’s Health Care Security Ordinance, a San Francisco law requiring employees to make health expenditures on behalf of covered employees. After it failed to respond to notices and phone calls, Farina received a Notice of Violation outlining potential penalties. Farina “utterly failed to make any effort to communicate or cooperate with the OLSE,” the office wrote, and starting October 18th, the restaurant was slapped with administrative penalties of $25 per day per employee, equaling $1,000 per day.
As of November 29th, that had become $43,000, at which point the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement recommended suspension of the restaurant’s business permit. At this point, apparently, that city officials did a quick Google search, and they didn’t like what they found.
“A search of news reports and court records demonstrates the business owners have repeatedly attempted to avoid payment of court judgments, taxes, and debts,” they wrote at the time.
In the end, that suspension wouldn’t be necessary: Eviction proceedings related to the restaurant’s dispute with its landlord forced it from the building. But will the restaurant pay the administrative fees, on top of unpaid rent to its Valencia Street landlord, who still seeks $360,00 in damages? Stay tuned.