Downtown Sandwich Shop Needles SF Over New Straw, Napkin Laws

Downtown sandwich shop the Sentinel (37 New Montgomery Street, next door to sibling bar House of Shields) is casting a sideways glance at some San Francisco policies with a remark written on recent menus. The pointed criticism: “Napkins, straws, and bags are available upon request. You can still get needles for free though. Welcome to SF.”

The reference is to a newly approved SF ordinance to ban plastic straws, which won’t take effect until summer 2019. When it arrives, the new law will also make disposable napkins and utensils only available upon request.

Meanwhile, according to a report on San Francisco’s distribution of needles to intravenous drug users this spring, the city hands out 4.45 million needles a year.

Mayor London Breed said she “totally understands” the frustration in the Sentinel’s joking criticism, when asked for a response by CBS news. But “these are different issues,” she points out.

“San Francisco has been an environmental leader the goal is to not just think about what’s happening now but think about what’s happening in the future … As it relates to needles I know people are frustrated. People suffer from drug addiction and sadly, just because we don’t like it or don’t want to see it, it doesn’t mean it will disappear.”

The Sentinel’s owner, restaurateur and bar owner Dennis Leary, tells CBS he was just making a statement, and may remove the wording from future menus. Leary declined to comment to Eater SF for this story.

Meanwhile, Golden Gate Restaurant Association president Gwyneth Borden points to a general level of uncertainty around the coming legislation that Leary and others clearly share. While the ordinance’s language banning plastic straws has garnered the most attention, it’s the law’s call to make disposable napkins, utensils, and lids only available upon request — unprompted by staff — that could cause more problems.

“Is it realistic in a customer service situation to wait for someone to ask for a napkin, condiments, and utensils?” Borden asks. And for hot beverages, serving lids only upon request could put businesses in legal jeopardy.

“There are definitely some practical and legal things to work out,” Borden says.

39 New Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94105