Fans can help open 'Tamale Lady' eatery 

click to enlarge Virginia Ramos, right, aka "Tamale Lady," holds a press conference with Supervisor David Campos, second from left, announcing a crowdsourcing initiative to help fund her lifelong dream of owning a restaurant. The local vendor has been banned from selling her tamales in local bars. - ALEX LEBER/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Alex Leber/Special to The S.F. Examiner
  • Virginia Ramos, right, aka "Tamale Lady," holds a press conference with Supervisor David Campos, second from left, announcing a crowdsourcing initiative to help fund her lifelong dream of owning a restaurant. The local vendor has been banned from selling her tamales in local bars.

San Francisco's "Tamale Lady," who was banned earlier this month from selling her famous food at local restaurants, launched a crowdsourcing fundraising campaign Thursday to set up a brick-and-mortar restaurant in the Mission district.

Virginia Ramos, 60, is seeking to raise $155,000 via an Indiegogo account to sell her tamales out of her own restaurant.

Ramos was told earlier this month that, because of city health codes, she could no longer sell the food at the popular Valencia Street bar Zeitgeist and elsewhere as she had over the past 20 years.

Public Health Department spokeswoman Eileen Shields said issues arose over liability since restaurants would be responsible for any health issues from food cooked outside the restaurant but sold inside.

Supervisor David Campos, whose district includes the Mission, joined the Tamale Lady for Thursday's announcement.

Campos said he has worked with Ramos after he received hundreds of calls and emails from constituents concerned about what would happen to her business.

With Campos translating her words from Spanish to English, Ramos said she wanted to keep going because "it's not just about selling tamales, but being with the young people." She said she hoped she would be able to raise the money because San Francisco "is a very unique city, people have a heart here."

Having turned 60 just last week, Ramos said a solution that involved her continuing to walk all around The City was not as enticing as having her own restaurant.

Campos said he was looking with Ramos for possible locations for the restaurant.

"We're very flexible," he said. "We're not looking for anything fancy," he added, saying that a food truck option also is being considered.

If the $155,000 is raised, $5,000 would go to the Indiegogo website while the rest would combine with money Ramos has already saved up to start the restaurant.

If more than that total is raised, Campos said the excess funds would go to the Jamestown Community Center, which provides after-school and summer programs for Mission youths.

The supervisor encouraged bar patrons who may have bought food from the Tamale Lady to help her pursue her dream of running her own restaurant.

"This is a time for the entire city to come together," Campos said. "San Francisco would not be San Francisco ... if the Tamale Lady is displaced."

People interested in donating to the campaign can visit www.indiegogo.com/projects/viva-la-tamale-lady.

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