The neighborhood debate over whether the Jack in the Box on Geary is an appropriate after-hours environment rages on.
On January 24th, the Entertainment Commission approved the restaurant’s request to stay open after hours, with some conditions. Rather than stay open 24 hours, the Commission ruled that Jack in the Box must close between the hours of 4am and 6am.
The Entertainment Commission’s ruling confused many residents, especially those who had rallied via a petition to ask that the Jack in the Box be forced to close from 2am until 4am, not 4am until 6am. It’s during the 2am to 4am hours when nearby residents claim there is the most noise and disruption at the restaurant due to patrons leaving nearby bars when they close.
Unhappy with the decision of the Commission, a resident group has filed an appeal that states, “We do not believe Jack in the Box can operate safely and within rules required by the permit between the hours of 2am and 4am. The restaurant’s small size makes it impossible to prevent excessive noise, traffic and loitering, and statistics unambiguously demonstrate that after hours patronage has caused an increase in violent crime and created impermissible noise and litter in a residential area.”
The appeal was filed on behalf of the Richmond Residents Association and The Chinese American Voters Education Committee (CAVEC). Both are headed up by David Lee, a neighborhood resident and owner of a State Farm Insurance branch located near the Jack in the Box. He also sits on the city’s Recreation & Parks Commission.
Lee was also behind the petition that gathered over 1,500 signatures from residents prior to the January 24 hearing, asking the Entertainment Commission require that Jack in the Box remain closed from 2am until 4am.
So why did the Entertainment Commission ignore the requests of petitioners and even nearby bar owners who want the Jack in the Box closed from 2am until 4am? In a neighborhood meeting just days before the hearing, the SFPD indicated they were in favor of Jack in the Box staying open 24 hours, despite police calls from the business being down since they reduced their hours in early December.
Even more surprising was Commissioner Audrey Joseph’s rationale for approving the permit. “It’s very important that we have food [available late at night]; it helps people not be as drunk,” she said at the January 24 hearing.
One RichmondSFBlog reader called Joseph’s argument “ignorant and reckless”. “You don’t sober up in 30 minutes and you don’t sober up from eating. It might make you FEEL better, but it does nothing to change blood alcohol level,” commenter kayvaan wrote.
Jack in the Box’s status in the neighborhood initially came into question after a tragic incident. In the early hours of Thanksgiving morning, a fight inside the Jack in the Box later led to a brutal hit and run accident on the corner of 9th and Geary.
The victim, 29 year old Albert Bartal, remains hospitalized with serious brain trauma. Bartal’s family started a Facebook page and a website to raise funds for his recovery. According to a post from his mother earlier this week, Albert remains in serious condition. “Albert was re-admitted to Kaiser Sacramento. No fever but he has ‘brain storms’ that cause his heart rate to soar, his body to contract, and he perspires A LOT!!” she wrote.
Police eventually arrested Eduardo Shaparo Esquivel, a 22-year old South San Francisco man who was identified from security footage from inside the Jack in the Box during the initial fight.
Since the incident, it was revealed that the Jack in the Box was staying open 24 hours a day, despite not having the required city permits to do so. As a result, they were forced to cut their hours and close at 2am every night. Then on January 24, the Entertainment Commission approved their permit, but with the condition that they close between the hours of 2am and 4am.
The appeal from Richmond Residents Association and The Chinese American Voters Education Committee will be heard by the Board of Appeals on February 29 at 5pm in City Hall, Room 416. The public is invited to attend the meeting and speak on the issue to the Board.
In the meantime, the permit that was issued on January 24 to Jack in the Box has been suspended. The restaurant will once again be forced to close between 2am and 6am until the matter is settled.