Permit issues jeopardize North Beach market

September 15, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A North Beach business may have to shut down because the owners are accused of not selling what they were licensed to sell.

Sal Chiavino owns Piazza Market in the North Beach neighborhood. City officials licensed the Market as a small self-service restaurant and grocery store with an area for beer and wine sales.

"We found out within about 90 days that groceries weren't going anywhere, they were not selling," he said.

Sal and his business partner, Tiffany Pisoni say the grocery segment never took off, so they have focused on the liquor and restaurant. But that violates planning codes and earlier this year an anonymous tipster alerted the city.

"There was no attempt ever, ever to be a grocery store," Pisoni said.

If they are unwilling to sell groceries, which the owners claim no one buys, Piazza market may go out of business. Mayor Gavin Newsom says he's sympathetic to the owners' plight but understands push back from those who say Chiavino and Pisoni are trying to change the rules in the middle of the game.

Newsom says he has created a taskforce to look into issues like this, facing restaurants, liquor stores and other small businesses. He is sympathetic with

"My answer would be yes, I absolutely want to help him, but you have to understand the rules, you went in under certain expectations," he said.

Kathleen Dooley is also a member of San Francisco's Small Business Commission. She says the neighborhood needs a grocery store and that's what they expected when the Piazza Market opened in 2008. But she says the owners "never, ever" even attempted to sell groceries.

"Tell us what you really want to do. If you want to be a 6,000 square foot liquor store just tell us," she said.

If the hearing doesn't go their way, the owners of Piazza market say they'll probably call it quits and 22 people will be out of work.


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