San Francisco Rallies Around Tamale Lady

(Bay City News) 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 Tuesday that he is working on a solution.

Virginia Ramos, aka The Tamale Lady, at Zeitgeist. (Photo: Dinah Sanders/Flickr)
Virginia Ramos, aka The Tamale Lady, at Zeitgeist. (Photo: Dinah Sanders/Flickr)

The popular Valencia Street establishment Zeitgeist announced on  Facebook last week that city codes were preventing Virginia Ramos from  serving her famous tamales

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.”

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  • Jesse

    Gotta love how our city rallies against the very bureaucracy it creates.

    • c.s.b.

      I suspect your tune would change pretty quickly if you got food poisoning or required ER treatment as a result of an unregulated tamale seller.

  • jolly

    If you allow her to sell unlicensed food on the streets, you must allow her competition to do the same as well, no special privileges, all vendors must receive the same treatment without bias. Why do we have food safety laws if no one wants to abide by them?

  • bobsoper

    We have out own Tamale Lady in Portland, who sets up outside the local food coop and at other spots.
    If you order one pack of tamales she’ll say “two, yes?” Very assertive salesperson!

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