Chain stores at the center of the Ed Jew scandal still lacking permits
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When former Sup. Ed Jew resigned in January 2008, he did so amid allegations that he wasn't living in the Sunset District when he ran in the 2006 District 4 race, and that he had tried to extort thousands of dollars from the owners of Quickly, a bubble drink chain that has 13 franchises in San Francisco and thousands of stores worldwide.
Although Jew is headed to federal court Nov. 10 on charges of bribery, mail fraud, and extortion including trying to extort $80,000 from Quickly's owners for help obtaining city permits Quickly still hasn't secured those trouble-triggering permits.
The Small Business Protection Act, which San Francisco voters passed in November 2006, requires chain stores with more than 11 franchises to apply for conditional use permits before opening new outlets, to allow small businesses the opportunity to voice concerns they may have about chain store competition.
"But Quickly thinks they can flout the law," Sup. Jake McGoldrick claimed June 17, when he called for a Land Use Committee hearing into why a Quickly store at 331 Clement Street has been operating without a conditional use permit for a year.
City Planner Scott Sanchez told the Guardian that Quickly owners appealed a notice of violation that the Planning Department issued last summer. Sanchez said the 331 Clement store's argument was that it was not a Quickly, "even though the store had the Quickly name, its colors, its beverages, and was listed on its Web site." He noted that Quickly eventually withdrew its appeal and opted in March to file a conditional use application instead.
Sanchez also explained that, thanks to a grandfather provision in the Small Business Act, only four of the San Francisco stores listed on Quickly's Web site require such permits because the other nine opened before the act passed.
With hearings on those four stores scheduled in August, city zoning administrator Lawrence Badiner recalls that it was Jew, not the Planning Department, that first asked about the Quickly stores shortly after he was elected in November 2006.
"I said, 'It sounds as if they are in violation,'<0x2009>" Badiner recalled. "I'd never heard of Quickly. But when we looked into it, I said, 'Jesus, yes, it does seem to be a violation of the planning code.'<0x2009>"
"Jew then did with that what he did," Badiner added. "We had no clue that he was in contact with them and proposing to help them. But when a supervisor asks about something, we keep them informed. But we had no clue, until it hit the papers, that he was doing anything with money."
Badiner says it will cost Quickly $1,000 to $2,000 per store to come into compliance. After the Jew allegations hit, Badiner said his department continued to hold discussions with Quickly's business owners.
"I don't think we talked about Sup. Jew," Badiner said. "We were trying to be scrupulously fair. Some said we acted too slowly; some say we persecuted them. But we just tried to go through the process."
Jew's lawyer, Stuart Hanlon, accuses the Quickly stores "of having always been in violation."
"And they are still doing it," Hanlon told the Guardian. "They have one in [board president Aaron] Peskin's district that Peskin has done zero about. I don't know how they do it, but they seem to get by without getting the permits."
"What Ed did or didn't do is a subject of a court case. But why is Quickly allowed to be here in violation of statutes? How are they doing it?" Hanlon asked. "They are clearly a chain store that gets supplied by and delivered to by a main store, and more of them have opened up since Ed had this problem."
Peskin replied to Hanlon's comment by telling us that "Stuart Hanlon can go fuck himself. The guy shouldn't be using my name as he does, and if he and his client had any idea how law worked, Ed would not be in a deep pile of trouble. The Planning Department is fully aware of all the violations of Quicklys throughout San Francisco, including my district. The fact that the Planning Department is not doing their job with speed and alacrity has nothing to do with us lawmakers."
When we called the Quickly franchise, a woman gave us a nonworking fax number for the 331 Clement store. When we asked to speak to the relevant Quickly owners, she told us, "Stores are individually owned, so we are not sure about that."