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Five New Bars Can Open in SF’s Underserved Neighborhoods

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SF’s underserved neighborhoods could get five new cocktail-and-dinner spots this year.
Photo by Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

California’s Alcoholic Beverage Control will allow five new bars to open in San Francisco, but only in specific neighborhoods

For 80 years, California’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) did not issue a single new liquor license to bars in San Francisco, prompting a cottage industry of establishments that buy and sell from each other for hundreds of thousands of dollars. In 2017, that all changed — (since beleaguered) state Assembly member Phil Ting successfully passed a law mandating that the city get five new licenses every year until 2023, a move intended to help bring drinking establishments to San Francisco’s less-served areas. This year’s application period has been announced, but it remains to be seen if prospective publicans will bite in these pandemic-pressured times.

The licenses, called a Type 87, require the bars to serve full meals (what the ABC calls “bona fide eating places”) and allows the sale and on-site consumption of beer, wine, and distilled spirits. They cost $15,835 each, which is a bargain compared to the $130,000 or so (a price that’s dropped from a pre-pandemic $250,000) one would expect to pay to buy a more standard, Type 47 license from a since-shuttered establishment. But unlike a Type 47, which can be resold to an establishment anywhere else in the city, 87s are “generally non transferable,” the ABC says.

To further complicate matters, the ABC allows the licenses based on census tracts, which is not the most accessible way to figure out which locations are available and which are not! This census tract reference map is clunky but might offer some guidance, and according to the SF Business Times, most are located inMission Bay and west San Francisco, colloquially known as ‘The Avenues.’”

You can see a full list of the tracts in which the five new bars might be allowed here, as well as additional details on how to apply. Applications (which cannot be completed online) will be accepted from September 14-25, 2020, and the full $15,835 must be submitted along with the application.

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