El Farolito gets their new North Beach location after compromise deal on formula retail rules

El Farolito gets their new North Beach location after compromise deal on formula retail rules
Image: @davidmlipinski via Twitter
By Joe Kukura - Published on April 06, 2022.

It looked like popular taqueria chain El Farolito was going to spice things up in North Beach last August, when the homegrown San Francisco-style burrito franchise announced a new El Farolito would open on Grant Avenue near Broadway. But it appeared the chips were down a month later, when the SF Planning Department said the new El Farolito would violate SF formula retail restrictions, since the chain already had 11 locations, and a 12th would not be permitted under local laws intended to curtail chains like McDonald’s and Starbucks.


Now an apparent compromise deal has brought the taqueria into compliance. The Chronicle reports that El Farolito will get its North Beach location, after the district's supervisor Aaron Peskin brokered some kind of arrangement  that satisfied both the planning department and El Farolito. 


“All is well that ends well and a vacant space is about to open with a new and popular restaurant in the recovering North Beach corridor and everybody can’t wait,” Peskin told the Chronicle. “The bottom line is at a time like this the city needs to be a better partner to a business like El Farolito.”

San Francisco’s formula retail regulations, which are in effect for some neighborhoods but not others, apply to any chain business that “operates 11 or more retail locations in the U.S.” El Farolito had 11 locations when they applied for their North Beach permit, following the 2020 closure of their Fisherman’s Wharf location. Their proposed 12th location would have exceeded the formula retail limit of 11.

Planning codes define formula retail as having  “a standardized façade, a standardized décor and color scheme, a uniform apparel, standardized signage, a trademark or a service mark.”

According to the Chronicle, El Farolito changed their signage at other Bay Area locations as a clever loophole to bring them into compliance with the regulations. The paper also reports that the new North Beach El Farolito is “expected to open sometime this month.

At 1230 Grant Avenue, the new El Farolito is within a block of iconic San Francisco businesses both new and old, like City Lights Booksellers and China Live. The budget burrito joint may not have the history or the razzle-dazzle of either of those destinations, but it’s certainly still a San Francisco institution. And once the North Beach taqueria opens later this month, there will surely be crowds lined up to cut the cheese at the new El Farolito.