Mayor Breed Proposes Community-led Solution to Increase Nighttime Safety in the Tenderloin by Limiting After-Midnight Retail Business

Legislation will limit the late-night operating hours of certain retail establishments including smoke shops as one part of comprehensive strategy to disrupt nighttime drug markets
April 23, 2024

San Francisco, CA —Today as part of Mayor London N. Breed’s comprehensive strategy to disrupt open-air drug markets, she will introduce legislation to the Board of Supervisors to prohibit some retail establishments selling prepacked food or tobacco products from operating between 12 a.m. (midnight) to 5 a.m. in part of the Tenderloin.  

Tenderloin community members and stakeholders have worked with Mayor Breed to develop this legislation as another tool to help prevent drug-related crimes and crowds, which cause fear among residents and unsafe street conditions in the Tenderloin. Residents have shared direct feedback noting the late-night operation of retail shops as a contributing factor to the drug markets in the Tenderloin, rather than the vibrancy of the neighborhood they operate in.  

This legislation is part of Mayor Breed’s Drug Market Agency Coordination Center (DMACC) efforts, a multi-agency strategy to disrupt and dismantle open-air drug markets. This effort is led by law enforcement and targets open-air drug sales, public drug use, and illegal fencing that fuels illegal drug markets.  

The DMACC efforts, which began last May, initially focused on eliminating daytime drug markets. In recent months, the focus has extended to nighttime operations, bringing more enforcement of drug sales and illegal fencing by local, state, and federal agencies.

Additionally, nighttime service outreach efforts led by the Department of Public Health have continued to take place. As part of DMACC, the City engages regularly with residents to coordinate, update, and seek solutions to improve the community.

“Tenderloin residents, businesses, and workers deserve safe streets not just during the day, but also at night,” said Mayor London Breed. “We are working with and listening to the community as we continue our efforts to make the Tenderloin safer for everyone. This is an idea for the community, from the community. The drug markets happening at night in this neighborhood are unacceptable and must be met with increased law enforcement and new strategies. We are coordinating these efforts across agencies and with community so that we can make deep and lasting changes in this neighborhood.”  

“San Francisco is working alongside the community to make our neighborhoods safer,” said City Attorney David Chiu. “The vast majority of businesses are contributing to our neighborhoods in meaningful ways, but there are a handful of late-night retail establishments in the Tenderloin that appear to attract significant nighttime drug activity. This legislation will give the City and residents an additional tool to break up open-air drug markets. If passed, my Office looks forward to working with other City departments to ensure compliance with the proposed legislation.”

San Francisco’s Tenderloin district experiences a significant amount of drug-related crime, including narcotics offenses and gun-related crimes, frequently connected with drug offenses. This neighborhood is also home to many lower income and immigrant families. These shops are important for the residents who primarily do their shopping during the morning, day, or early evening hours.  

Late-night drug markets result in large crowds, often involved in illicit activity. These gatherings increase environmental hazards, like needles and waste, and often lead to criminal behavior and violent crime. Prohibiting these businesses from operating only between midnight and 5 a.m. strikes a balance between supporting the shops and the community while causing minimal financial impact.

Small businesses in the Tenderloin hope that this effort to improve the safety of the area will empower residents to shop in the daytime and early evenings creating a more vibrant neighborhood for locals and visitors to enjoy.  

"We stand with all of Mayor Breed's efforts to restore peace in our neighborhood,” said Khaled Ghaleb, Imam of the Tenderloin-based Mosque, Darussalam. “Our community has long suffered from the consequences of nighttime activities that threaten our safety and well-being. This legislation not only represents a decisive action towards curbing illegal activities but also reinforces our collective responsibility to nurture a safe, welcoming environment for all of our residents, worshipers, and youth.”

"The Tenderloin is a multilingual mosaic, home to thousands of young people, seniors, single adults, and families who all deserve to feel safe at any hour in their neighborhood," said Kate Robinson, Executive Director of the Tenderloin Community Benefit District (TLCBD). "The enhanced coordination we are seeing amongst City partners is yielding tangible results, especially in the daytime, and this renewed focus on quelling known nighttime trouble spots will put us on a renewed path towards a sustainable future for residents."

“During daylight hours, there has been great progress with dealing with open-air drug sales/usage,” said Gregg Johnson, a resident of the Tenderloin. “The same cannot be said for evening hours, especially after 10 p.m. and there are pockets in the Tenderloin where stores who operate 24/7 which are creating unsafe sidewalks in and around their location. Many residents, including myself, do not venture out after 10 p.m. for anything because we don't feel safe.  This pilot legislation may prove to be viable and could improve the quality of life in this neighborhood.  It is going to take an ‘out of the box’ approach in dealing with this situation.”  

“We see this initiative as a crucial step toward revitalizing our community,” said Abdul Alrammah of Yemen Kitchen. “Closing retail businesses at midnight allows us to focus on quality daytime service and contributes to a healthier, more vibrant neighborhood. It’s about creating a community space that feels lively throughout the day, and secure during the night- ultimately benefiting all local businesses and residents alike.”  

"We at Azalina's are optimistic about the Mayor’s proposed legislation to curb the sale of paraphernalia and deter late-night purchases connected to the drug culture that has affected San Francisco,” said Tim Benson from Azalina’s Restaurant. “This is a step in the right direction to address our urgent community needs of reducing the activities that we all know compromise our neighborhood's safety. We look forward to the City’s continued collaboration and solution-making with us."  

How the Legislation Will Work

This legislation would prohibit retail establishments like corner stores, liquor stores, and smoke shops that sell prepackaged food or tobacco products from opening to the public between 12 a.m. and 5 a.m. between O’Farrell and McAllister and from Polk to Jones. The legislation would not apply to restaurants, bars, or event halls. 

For each hour a store operates in violation of the ordinance, there will be an administrative citation that carries a fine of up to $1,000, with warnings given each hour of violation after the first, and with no limit on the maximum number of fines. In the case that a store becomes a repeat violator, the City Attorney can file a lawsuit seeking a court order to make the business comply with the hours limitation and to pay any owed fines. Any resident of the Tenderloin area can also file their own lawsuit for enforcement. The goal of this initiative is to improve the health and wellbeing of the families and children who live in the Tenderloin; it is not intended to punish small businesses.  

The Department of Public Health will be issuing the administrative fines based on evidence and investigation from the San Francisco Police Department. SFPD will be the eyes, ears, and feet on the ground; the department will conduct investigations, obtain evidence, and give warnings to shops that are violating the ordinance.  

DMACC Efforts

Mayor Breed launched the Drug Market Agency Coordination Center (DMACC) in May 2023, activating resources across the City to dismantle the illegal drug markets in the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods. State and federal partners have joined the effort, leading to an unprecedented number of arrests of drug dealers and drug seizures.  

Since May 29, SFPD has seized over 194 kilos of narcotics and made more than 3,000 arrests related to drug activity in these neighborhoods. Conditions have improved along some of the most challenged streets as officers continue to make progress in other areas.  

"San Francisco is making progress in dismantling the pernicious drug markets in the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods, but we can't let up," said SFPD Chief Bill Scott. "This legislation will assist our hard-working officers in their work to hold drug dealers accountable and make the streets safer for everyone. I want to thank Mayor London Breed for her commitment to this work and her vision in continuing to find ways to address these challenges."