San Francisco Mayor London Breed is taking a bit of heat from both health officials and San Francisco’s self-proclaimed “fun police”, she says. Mayor Breed visited Black cat in the net last week, probably to listen to some live jazz and try out the new menu of cocktails and croquettes. But Breed was pictured dancing and singing without wearing a mask, as the SF Chronicle reported first, and now faces criticism for failing to follow the city’s interior mask mandate to the letter – although she maintains she hasn’t done anything wrong.
Mayor Breed visited Black Cat in the net on Wednesday September 15th. the Chronicle The reporter was also present at the show and filmed cellphone video footage of the mayor dancing and singing without wearing a mask, surrounded by other participants who were also not wearing masks. Raphael Saadiq and D’Wayne Wiggins from Oakland, two of three members of R&B group Tony! Toni! Toné !, unexpectedly took the stage to perform his hit single “Let’s Get Down”, the Chron confirmed. After the performance, Breed also posed for photos with the artists and did an interview, all without wearing a mask.
Hundreds of comments and a dozen local new stories later, and of course, the internet is criticizing, applauding, or otherwise arguing about the mayor’s actions. The crux of the matter is that, according to San Francisco’s current mandate for indoor masks, masks can only be removed while “actively eating or drinking.” The mayor appears to have a table full of food and drink in front of her in the video, and maintains that she was drinking, although critics may not be saying quite “actively”.
In a subsequent interview, the mayor defended his actions. “I had a great time at Black Cat. And I think it’s sad that it’s even a story… I ate and drank and sat with my friends. And everyone who got in there was vaccinated… No, I’m not going to sip, put on my mask, sip and put on my mask. She said she was celebrating the return of live shows and these “monumental” artists for R&B and the Bay Area, and that she plans to continue supporting bars, restaurants and nightlife. “Like we don’t need the funny police trying to come in and micromanage and tell us what we should or shouldn’t be doing,” she said.
Black Cat had been closed for a year and a half and only reopened on August 4, with a new chef and a new menu. Owner Fritz Quattlebaum declined to comment for this story, but a representative released a statement: “Black Cat takes COVID very seriously, as well as city and state COVID mandates and guidance,” citing that the club required proof of vaccination since reopening, well before the official warrant. The mandate of the mask for the Bay Area is effective August 3, and the vaccination mandate for San Francisco since August 20. At Black Cat, the rep says staff wear masks at all times, guests should follow city guidelines, and are seated at tables with food and drink. “We are proud to have a mayor who so passionately supports the arts and live music! Quattlebaum said in the statement.
Some have compared it to a French laundry time: When Governor Gavin Newsom dined at the French Laundry in November 2020, as we remembered last week’s recall election. And let’s not forget, The Mayor of London Breed did exactly the same only a day later, just as health officials were advising families not to attend Thanksgiving gatherings. But to put all the “maskless”, “party” and “club” titles into perspective, Black Cat is an intimate jazz and dinner club in the Tenderloin, with a small stage and surrounding tables.
Exaggerated or not, the incident speaks to the continuing challenge and complexity of trying to enforce mask warrants in a reopening of San Francisco. If city authorities are struggling to follow the protocols they themselves have put in place, how can they ask restaurant and bar owners to enforce them and ensure the safety of diners and drinkers?