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Gavin Newsom’s Restaurant Group Nabbed a Six-Figure Federal Stimulus Loan

California’s governor says his bars and restaurants are “my babies, my life, my family”

Balboa Cafe, the Marina District restaurant owned by Gavin Newsom-founded Plumpjack group, benefitted from a six-figure federal stimulus loan
Balboa Cafe/Instagram

The federal government released the names of over 650,000 U.S. businesses that successfully applied for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans — the federal stimulus loans intended to help keep the country’s mom-and-pop businesses afloat during the coronavirus crisis — on Monday. As one might expect, many of the names on the list are prominent restaurateurs, like California Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose Plumpjack group of restaurants, bars, wineries, hotels, and event spaces borrowed as much as $350,000 from the federal government.

Those 650,000 or so names are just a fraction of the recipients of the loan, which is administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The data released Monday only covers recipients of loans over $150,000, the U.S. Treasury said in a press release. Recipients of loans less than $150,000 are listed in the agency’s database by demographic information, but all the names and addresses have been redacted.

The Washington Post has created a searchable database of all recipients of loans over $1 million, and on that list alone several local names pop out: Mexican chain Tacolicious took home between $2–5 million to support 343 jobs, the report says, Chinatown food and drink emporium China Live borrowed between $1–2 million to support 182 jobs, and Tartine Bakery borrowed between $1–2 million to support 145 jobs.

Not on the Post list was Plumpjack, the company founded by Newsom in 1992 as a Fillmore District wine shop. Since then, it’s expanded into four wineries, three retail spots, and restaurants including Marina District hot spot Balboa Cafe, SoMa cocktail bar Forgery, and Wildhawk, the Mission bar that took over the former Lexington Club space. The restaurant group took home a PPP loan in a range between $150,000 and $350,000, the Associated Press reports.

When asked about the loan on Monday, Newsom said, “You would have to ask the people that are running those businesses,” KRON 4 reports. According to an SF Chronicle report from 2018, when Newsom — who was previously California’s lieutenant governor — was elected to the state’s top spot, he transferred the “title to and control of the businesses he founded to a blind trust, a step that goes beyond anything required by law,” a spokesperson said.

This wasn't the first time Newsom had stepped away from his empire: When he was elected mayor of San Francisco in 2004, he sold all his businesses within the city to Plumpjack investor and local billionaire Gordon Getty for $1.7 million. When he was elected lieutenant governor, in 2010, Newsom bought the business back from Getty. A second sale was not in the cards when Newsom was elected governor, it seems: he told the Chron during his campaign that “These are my babies, my life, my family...I can’t do that. I can’t sell them.”

Nevertheless, Newsom’s babies-life-family are presently out of his hands, he says, a matter confirmed by Plumpjack vice president of marketing McKenzie Ward. According to Ward, Newsom “has no say in any decision we are making,” and the company was grateful for the federal loan, which reportedly saved 14 jobs.

Those interested in scouring the list for other loan recipients have a couple options: The Post’s database of $1 million-plus recipients is here, the Treasury department has a downloadable CSV file of recipients of more than $150,000 here, and a state-by-state list of those who borrowed less than $150,000 — remember, that one doesn’t have any names or addresses — is available here. See something of note you think we should look into? Drop us a line.

Tacolicious

2250 Chestnut Street, , CA 94123 (415) 649-6077 Visit Website

China Live

644 Broadway, , CA 94133 (415) 788-8188 Visit Website

Wildhawk

3464 19th Street, , CA 94110 (415) 830-9444 Visit Website

Tartine Bakery

600 Guerrero Street, , CA 94110 (415) 487-2600 Visit Website

Balboa Cafe

3199 Fillmore Street, , CA 94123 (415) 921-3944 Visit Website

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