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SF City Planners Won't Allow Taqueria El Farolito In North Beach Due To 'Chain Store' Ban

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- The Mission District born San Francisco Taqueria El Farolito had big plans to open up a new spot across town in North Beach at Grant and Columbus, but now, they may have to look elsewhere.

"I know that people were excited when they saw it was coming in - and people are going to be disappointed when they see it's not coming in," said local Shane Sadoski. "I think it's not good - I don't think it's right."

El Farolito currently operates 11 locations throughout the Bay Area. The proposed North Beach location would make it 12, and therefore by the city's definition it would be considered a chain.

While the Planning Commission does permit some chains to operate with special permissions, there are certain neighborhoods in San Francisco, like North Beach, that simply prohibit chain stores.

"You can't say, well, we're going to make an exception for this one because it's x, y, and z," said Dan Macchiarini, the vice-president of the North Beach Business Association.

Machiarini says the North Beach policy was put in place about a decade ago in order to help maintain the neighborhood's character. He tells KPIX 5 he has no problems with the Taqueria.

"That taqueria, to my understanding, is a very unique contribution to the Mission. Why do we want to bring the Mission to North Beach?" he said.

San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney does not represent North Beach. However, he told KPIX he thinks the city should be helping local businesses like this taqueria open up shops rather than prohibiting them.

"I don't want to speak to what the North Beach specific rules should be. But, I do think we should look at how we define a chain store. We shouldn't put an El Farolito in the same category as large international chains," he said. "A locally based taqueria should not be treated the same as a Starbucks. Our definitions are out of whack if we are putting those two in the same category."

El Farolito could open up in North Beach if it were to make "sufficient changes," to the proposed location, according to an email between the owner and a zoning administrator with the planning department. That could mean changing the location's name, signage, menu, or another aspect that differentiates it from other locations.

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