SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF)– San Francisco’s “Tamale Lady,” who was banned earlier this month from selling her famous food at local restaurants, launched a crowd-sourced fundraising campaign Thursday to set up a brick-and-mortar restaurant in the city’s Mission District.

Virginia Ramos, 60, is seeking to raise $155,000 via an Indiegogo account to sell her famous 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 restaurant Zeitgeist and elsewhere as she had over the past 20 years.

San Francisco Department of Public Health 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.

David Campos, a member of the city’s Board of Supervisors 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 that a solution that involved her continuing to walk all around the city was not as enticing as having her own brick-and-mortar 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,” adding that some sort of food truck option was also still being considered.

“Everything’s on the table and we’re still open to possibilities,” he said.

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 was raised, Campos said the excess funds would go to the Jamestown Community Center, which provides after-school and summer programs for Mission District youth.

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, at least the city we want it to be, if the ‘Tamale Lady’ is displaced and she is no longer able to have her business.”

People interesting in donating can visit

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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