Proposal to crackdown on problem nightclubs in SF

July 19, 2010 1:49:43 PM PDT
A San Francisco Board of Supervisors committee today approved legislation that would give the city's Entertainment Commission more power to shut down problem nightclubs that are the site of pervasive violence or nuisance behavior.

Under an ordinance proposed by Supervisor David Chiu, the commission would be allowed to revoke the entertainment permit of a club deemed a public safety threat or a public nuisance. The clubs would be unable to reapply for the permit for one year.

The Public Safety Committee agreed unanimously this morning to forward the legislation to the full board.

"It is my hope and desire that these tools...will help to ameliorate the problem," Chiu said.

Chiu acknowledged that there has been "a lot of public frustration" with the commission, including neighborhood residents' complaints about their reporting of problems at local clubs "going into a black hole."

Last year, legislation was passed expanding the commission's power to temporarily suspend club permits.

Renewed focus came this year after a Feb. 7 gang shooting outside the Suede nightclub near Fisherman's Wharf -- in Chiu's district -- in which one person was killed and four others were injured.

The club had "a multi-year history of violence that had not been addressed," Chiu said today.

At the time, the Entertainment Commission noted it had limited authority to revoke Suede's operating permit. The club has now agreed to a temporarily closure as the city attorney's office pursues a permanent closure in court.

Other recent violence included a fight outside El Rincon in the Mission District on June 19 in which a responding police officer was shot in the foot and a July 11 fatal shooting outside Jelly's in Mission Bay. Both clubs were temporarily closed for seven days.

The Entertainment Commission currently can only revoke a club's permit based on ownership making false statements on a permit application; failing to pay permit fees; or failing to surrender the permit during a change of ownership. For public safety issues, it can only suspend a permit for up to 90 days.

Jocelyn Kane, acting director of the Entertainment Commission, told the committee today that the commission supports Chiu's legislation expanding its revocation powers. She added that the commission would try to educate and take corrective action against problem clubs, "before we get to this point."

The commission is also working on re-evaluating the security plans of certain clubs, Kane said.

Kane acknowledged that the commission has no authority over event promoters.

"We don't have any ability to do anything with them," she said.

Both Kane and police Cmdr. Kitt Crenshaw agreed that there has been increased cooperation between the commission and police on the issue of curbing violence at certain venues.

Crenshaw said, however, that violence continues "almost weekly, at some of these clubs."

Crenshaw outlined several proposals by the Police Department, including requiring that all clubs that handle more than 100 patrons have security plans and video cameras at the entrance and outside. He also proposed a business tax for certain club districts to help police recover enforcement costs.

"I think that (those proposals) would bring about a major change to the industry," Crenshaw said.


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