Polk Street market permitted to sell alcohol despite recent restrictions 

click to enlarge Board of Supervisors President David Chiu says Blue Fog Market won't contribute to rowdy behavior on Polk Street. - ALEX LEBER/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Alex Leber/Special to The S.F. Examiner
  • Board of Supervisors President David Chiu says Blue Fog Market won't contribute to rowdy behavior on Polk Street.

One business is proving that to get an alcohol-sales permit on Polk Street, it might just be in how you sell it.

After decrying the proliferation of bars and liquor stores along the bustling corridor, the area's supervisor has supported a new alcohol-sales license for a high-end deli.

Two months ago, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu succeeded in passing a ban on new bars and liquor stores and imposing other alcohol controls for six blocks of lower Polk Street. It was intended to curb rowdy behavior associated with drinking.

While the ban covers Polk Street between O'Farrell and California streets, where there are at least 45 liquor licenses, Chiu has said he would consider extending it farther north.

"If we include the rest of the commercial portion of Polk Street, all the way up to Filbert, there are a total of 121 alcohol permits," Chiu said during an April hearing on the proposal. "While I appreciate the vibrancy of nightlife on Polk Street, this proliferation of alcohol establishments has had adverse impacts on the quality of life in the neighborhood in terms of noise, public drunkenness, public safety, pedestrian and traffic congestion."

On Tuesday, the board unanimously approved a license for Blue Fog Market to sell beer and wine one block north of the ban area at Polk and Sacramento streets.

Chiu said it was a "very special instance" and he based his support on community feedback.

"I was frankly surprised when the neighborhood association told me to support it," Chiu said, adding that Blue Fog offers "a unique and different type of business" that is not associated with the area's quality-of-life issues.

Marvis Phillips, a member of the community group Alliance for a Better District 6, said adding a new alcohol seller doesn't make sense. He pointed out that recently a CVS Pharmacy located at Hyde and California streets was permitted to sell alcohol on the condition that it buy two liquor sales permits from "problem" businesses on Polk Street, including one near Blue Fog Market.

Chiu said the positive feedback from the Middle Polk Neighborhood Association was important.

"Many people may ask, 'Why would you ever think of putting more alcohol on Polk Street?'" Dawn Trennert, head of that neighborhood group, said during a public hearing last week. "Usually we are against adding any liquor, but in this case it just makes sense. It just makes sense to have somebody be able to go and get a gourmet dinner and a bottle of wine or a specialty beer with it. I can see myself doing it."

Blue Fog Market owner Frank Slacik, a former investment banker who lives in San Francisco, appears to have done everything right. He did outreach to the nearest community group, donates to nearby elementary schools and consulted with well-known lobbyist Alex Tourk.

Slacik said if more businesses on Polk were like his, alcohol would be less of an issue.

"It's clear that we are different," Slacik said. "I'm not the problem."

Slacik got into the business in 2010 after purchasing the Blue Fog Market on Gough Street near Cow Hollow and Pacific Heights. The Polk location is his second but he hopes to expand to as many as eight, with locations in the mid-Market Street, South of Market and Castro neighborhoods. He is currently working to open a commissary in Potrero Hill.

Partnering with local celebrity chef Ryan Scott, Slacik's high-end markets offer a pristine environment catering to single professionals or couples without kids who are willing to shell out for high-quality foods on the go.

"We're not selling wine to someone like [John] Belushi to take back to the frat house," Slacik told the Board of Supervisors.

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