A week after a San Francisco bar said it would no longer be able to allow the “Tamale Lady” to serve her famous food at its establishment, a city supervisor said today he is working on a solution.
The popular Valencia Street establishment Zeitgeist announced on Facebook last week that city codes were preventing Virginia Ramos from serving her famous tamales there.
Supervisor David Campos said at today’s board meeting that since the news came out, his office has received “hundreds of calls and emails from people wanting to know how they can help the Tamale Lady.”
Campos said he met with Ramos on Friday and is looking at a few different solutions that would allow her to continue serving the tamales at Zeitgeist and other restaurants while complying with laws from the city’s Department of Public Health.
SFDPH spokeswoman Eileen Shields said the issue comes down to liability because “health code says if a restaurant is selling food from an unlicensed vendor and someone gets ill, it’s on the restaurant.”
Shields said the department “has been trying for a number of years to work with her to become permitted and will continue to try to do that.”
Ramos is a “much-loved community resource,” Shields said. “Many of us at the health department like her tamales as well, so there’s a lot of support for her to get permitted and become legit.”
Campos said that Ramos began selling the tamales after realizing that her day job as a domestic worker cleaning houses was not bringing in enough money to support her family, which includes seven children.
“She has become an icon here in the city,” he said. “She seems to miraculously appear when nightlife patrons need something to eat.”
Ramos has more than 5,500 followers on Twitter and has been the subject of several features in local publications.
Campos said his office is “doing everything we can to make sure the Tamale Lady stays in business” and said an announcement about a plan of action could come in the next few days.
In the meantime, a 60th birthday party is being held for Ramos this Friday at 7 p.m. at the SF Eagle, a bar located at 398 12th St.
Campos encouraged the Tamale Lady’s supporters to attend the event and “donate a little money to ensure she continues to have a business in San Francisco.”
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News