Fisherman’s Wharf suddenly teeming will illegal booze vendors, city can’t do much about it

Fisherman’s Wharf suddenly teeming will illegal booze vendors, city can’t do much about itImage: @jeffreytumlin via Twitter
Joe Kukura
Published on June 01, 2021

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.”


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.


“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.