City Attorney David Chiu

City Attorney and Port Executive Director suspend restaurant owners pending criminal bribery charges

Nick’s Lighthouse owners are accused of using bribes to secure leases on Fisherman’s Wharf properties

SAN FRANCISCO (May 30, 2024) — City Attorney David Chiu and Port Executive Director Elaine Forbes announced today that they issued a suspension order against Nick’s Lighthouse restaurant owners and affiliated individuals and businesses to prohibit them from bidding on or being awarded new contracts with San Francisco. In 2023, U.S. Attorney Ismail Ramsey filed criminal bribery charges against Nick’s Lighthouse owners, Min Paik and Hye Paik, after the pair allegedly bribed a City employee and an undercover FBI agent to secure leases on two Fisherman’s Wharf properties. The Port employee informed their supervisors about the alleged bribery, and the City notified law enforcement, leading to the criminal charges.

City Attorney David Chiu
City Attorney David Chiu

“The City has no interest in contracting with corrupt businesses attempting to circumvent our fair bidding processes,” said City Attorney David Chiu. “We hope this serves as a stark reminder to anyone who tries to bribe their way into a City contract that they will be investigated and held accountable. I am immensely proud of the Port employee who did the right thing and alerted the appropriate officials to this unlawful conduct.”

“As City employees, and as the Port community, we hold ourselves to high ethical standards,” said Port Executive Director Elaine Forbes. “The waterfront should be a place of opportunity for everyone. It should not be a place where circumventing fair processes wins advance. We will continue to cooperate with the federal authorities who investigated this case and are consulting with the City Attorney’s Office as we consider next steps regarding the Nick’s Lighthouse lease.” 

The Paiks own Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurant, Nick’s Lighthouse, and a handful of other businesses. Sung Ki Kim and Ihyun Jeoung are nephews of the Paiks and also registered owners of Nick’s Lighthouse. In addition to suspending Min Paik and Hye Paik as individuals, the City Attorney and Port Executive Director suspended the following affiliated individuals and entities:

  • Nick’s Lighthouse
  • Wharf777, Inc.
  • Uri Food, Inc.
  • Sung Ki Kim
  • Ihyun Jeoung

Between May 2023 and November 2023, the Paiks allegedly paid a Port employee and an undercover FBI agent approximately $19,000 with the intent to secure leases for two Fisherman’s Wharf properties. The Port employee immediately notified their supervisors of the bribe, and the City then alerted law enforcement.

In November 2023, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California charged the Paiks with conspiracy to commit bribery and bribery of an agent of an organization receiving federal funds. The Paik’s alleged conduct is not only unlawful but serves as grounds for suspension and debarment.

Suspension orders are brought under San Francisco Administrative Code Chapter 28 and allow the City to suspend contractors and grantees accused of misconduct in a separate proceeding, such as a criminal proceeding. Suspension orders are effective immediately, bar the contractors from participating in the procurement process for new contracts or grants, and give the City grounds to cancel any existing contracts or grants. After the criminal proceedings against the Paiks have concluded, the City intends to seek debarment, which is an administrative enforcement procedure that authorizes the City to ban contractors from applying for or receiving City contracts or grants. Both suspension and debarment carry a maximum term of five years.

The suspension order can be found here. The full list of entities unable to participate in contracting with the City and County of San Francisco is posted here.