SF suspends troubled nightclub's license

March 31, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The San Francisco nightclub where one man was shot last month, will stay closed for 30 days. That was the unanimous vote late Wednesday night, by the San Francisco Entertainment Commission, which itself has come under fire for not doing enough to respond to problems at the Suede nightclub.

"Not in my hood. Suede nightclub -- revoke permit," said Lee Goodin, who lives near the club.

Several San Francisco police officers had to testify about a number of violations police say were committed by owners of Club Suede on the morning of the shooting. Commander James Dudley testified he saw people outside the club with drinks. Dudley also added the club was overcrowded, people were getting rowdy and security provided by the club was inadequate.

Residents, business owners, and even President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors David Chiu asked the Entertainment Commission to permanently close Suede down.

The request came after last month's incident when 44 shots were fired outside the club, killing one person and injuring four others.

Chiu said the tragic incident could have been avoided had the commission acted before.

"For the year and a half before this incident, this Entertainment Commission had heard on 10 occasions about problems related to Suede," said Chiu.

There was a hefty stack of papers with more than 1,000 signatures on a petition asking San Francisco officials to close down Suede. The mayor said the club should be closed.

"It's not my first wish on any business, quite the contrary, because for the grace of God go any small business person that may have some issues, but there's just been too many and at a certain point, enough is enough," said Mayor Gavin Newsom.

The nightclub is located at 383 Bay Street near Fisherman's Wharf. Neighbors say they have complained about the ongoing noise and rowdy crowds since the club opened a year and a half ago.

"Late night noise and violence coming out of the club. Some of our local hotels have had problems with guests that have asked for refunds because there's been so much activity and noise," said Kevin Carroll from the Fisherman's Warf community.

"I no longer feel like I can come home between the hours of 12 and 2 o'clock," said neighbor Erika Gliebe.

But instead of asking to revoke the club's permit, the City Attorney's Office asked for a temporary suspension.

"The maximum penalties allowed under the rules for the type of misconduct alleged here is a 30-day suspension and we are requesting that penalty," said Deputy City Attorney Jennifer Choi.

The club's owner, Hanson Wong, was at the hearing represented by lawyer Arthur Lipton.

"We understand the seriousness of it. In some ways, this commission is more under attack than my client is," said Lipton.

But one commissioner defended their actions when policing the industry.

"Disciplinary action doesn't always need to be suspension revocation hearings. They, more importantly, can be calling a venue back in and modifying the conditions of their permit," said Terrance Alan, an entertainment commissioner.

"They say that those of us who are against these clubs are against fun. Well, we're not against clubs, we're not against fun, we just don't think getting shot or having our neighborhood shot up is fun," said Goodin.

Some have called for overhauling the commission. The mayor would like to dump it.

"I think we can simply do without the Entertainment Commission. I don't see it adding any real value or substantive value," said Newsom.

Regardless, the mayor said since the voters created the Entertainment Commission, it would be up to the voters to decide what to do with it and he is not pushing a ballot measure.

The club voluntarily closed immediately after the shooting, but now it must remain closed for 30 days. After that, if other offenses are found, the commission can enforce the 60 or 90-day suspension.

As for Suede's owner, ABC7 tried to contact him, but he did not return our calls.

ABC7's Carolyn Tyler contributed to this report


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