San Francisco Mayoress, London Breed, is taking some heat from both actual health officials and the self-proclaimed “fun police” of San Francisco, she says. Mayor Breed visited Black Cat in the Tenderloin last week, presumably to experience live jazz and try the new cocktail and croquette menu. But Breed was photographed dancing and singing without a mask, as the SF Chronicle first reported, and is now being criticized for not following the city’s mask mandate to the tee – despite claiming she didn’t do anything wrong.
Mayor Breed visited Black Cat in the Tenderloin last Wednesday September 15th. A Chronicle reporter happened to be at the show as well, filming cell phone video footage of the mayor dancing and singing without a mask, surrounded by other participants who were also absent wearing masks. Raphael Saadiq and D’Wayne Wiggins from Oakland, two of three members of the R&B group Tony! Toni! Toné! unexpectedly entered the stage to perform their hit single “Let’s Get Down”, the Chron confirmed. After the performance, Breed also posed for photos with the artists and conducted an interview, all without a mask.
Hundreds of comments and a dozen local messages later, and of course the internet is now criticizing, applauding, or otherwise arguing the mayor’s actions. The core of the problem is that according to San Francisco’s current mask mandate for interiors, masks may only be removed when “actively eating or drinking”. The mayoress appears to have a table full of food and drinks in front of her in the video and claims that she has been drinking, although critics say she may not be “actively”.
In a subsequent interview, the mayor defended her approach. “I had a good time at the Black Cat. And I find it sad that this is even a story … I ate and drank and sat with my friends. And everyone who came in was vaccinated … No, I’m not going to slurp and put my mask on, slurp and put my mask on. ”She says she’s celebrating the return of the live performances and those“ monumental ”artists for R&B and the Bay Area and plan to continue supporting bars, restaurants and nightlife. “Like we didn’t need the funny police to try and come in and micromanage us and tell us what to do or not to do,” she said.
Black Cat had been closed for a year and a half and didn’t reopen until August 4th with a new chef and menu. Owner Fritz Quattlebaum declined to comment on the story, but a representative issued a statement: “Black Cat takes COVID and city and state COVID mandates and guidance very seriously,” citing the club since the reopening requires proof of vaccination prior to the official mandate. The mask mandate for the Bay Area became effective August 3, and the vaccine mandate for San Francisco became effective August 20. At Black Cat, the rep says the staff wear masks at all times, guests are expected to follow city directions, and you’ll be seated at tables with food and drink. “We are proud to have a mayor who is so passionate about art and live music!” Quattlebaum said in the statement.
Some have compared this to a French laundry moment: when Governor Gavin Newsom dined at the French laundry in November 2020, which we reminisced about during last week’s recall election. And let’s not forget that Mayor London Breed did the exact same thing just a day later when health officials advised families not to attend Thanksgiving gatherings. But to put all the “maskless”, “party” and “club” headlines in the right light, Black Cat is an intimate jazz and supper club in the tenderloin with a small stage and surrounding tables.
Exaggerated or not, the incident speaks to the ongoing challenge and complexity of attempting to enforce mask mandates in a reopened San Francisco. If city officials are having trouble following the protocols they have made themselves, how can they ask restaurant and bar owners to enforce them and keep guests and drinkers safe?