The Memorial Day holiday was by all accounts a banner weekend at the clam-chowder-and-bread-bowl tourist trap known as Fisherman’s Wharf. Throngs of tourists returned, and that sense of normalcy led to enormous optimism. “We maxed out our reservations for today. And we’re really looking forward to Sunday and Monday, seeing how much we can do,” Franciscan restaurant general manager Vic Long told KPIX on Saturday. “Not only are the tourists coming back, but we’re seeing a lot of return business, a lot of customers were waiting for us to open.”
Many SF businesses and hotels report Memorial Day holiday weekend is the busiest weekend for them since the start of the pandemic. Hoping this is the beginning of an upward trend for the SF Bay Area tourism industry. Full @KPIXtv story: https://t.co/8a36FLrURX— Da Lin (@DaKPIX) May 31, 2021
Yet the return of tourist dollars to an economically battered neighborhood comes with an unintended side effect. According to a separate KPIX report, the Wharf is also crawling with illegal street vendors, many of whom are selling alcohol with no ID checking or age verification.
Tourists are returning to SF Fisherman’s Wharf & Pier 39 this holiday wkd. But merchants are frustrated w/ the illegal vendors next to their stores. Dozens of street vendors selling everything from Gucci knockoffs to $5 Tequila shots. Full @KPIXtv story: https://t.co/FqYb10D1ld— Da Lin (@DaKPIX) May 31, 2021
“It's like a giant flea market out here,” KPIX’s Da Lin said in a Sunday report. “Everything and anything you want to find, they have it here. You want $5 shots, they've got it here. You want Gucci knockoff bags, they've got it here as well.”
Knockoff Gucci bags and card-table jewelry vendors are probably taking a slice out of the gift shops’ revenue, and have been for a while. But the brazen new alcohol sales represent an escalation in black market sidewalk vending.
“There’s no ID-checking so, literally, a minor can walk up and buy alcohol,” Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District executive director Randall Scott told KPIX. “The alcohol is a new factor, they’ve taken it to the next level.”
Add to this that many of the street vendors selling food are using makeshift propane tank set-ups, a frighteningly unwelcome sight for businesses who remember the giant Fisherman’s Wharf fire last summer.
The curious irony is that there is little the city can do about this. The Wharf is under the jurisdiction of the Port of San Francisco. And a pre-pandemic law called SB 946 prohibits “a local authority, as defined, from regulating sidewalk vendors.”
KPIX notes that the district’s supervisor Aaron Peskin is working on a permitting system for the vendors which would legalize them, but bar them from selling food or alcohol. But that’s in the early stages, so it may still be a Summer of Suds for vendors selling beer out of their coolers at Fisherman’s Wharf.