Nightclub in Fishermans' Wharf closed after shooting

February 8, 2010 8:02:45 PM PST
A San Francisco nightclub has temporarily lost its license after a gun battle over the weekend left a teenager dead and four other people injured.

It's a tragedy that is putting new pressure on the city to revamp the permit process for problem clubs.

According to Police Chief George Gascon, the problems date back to 2006 and include club patrons refusing to allow guards to search them, intoxicated customers being served more alcohol and underage drinking.

Many hope this fatal shooting will put Suede out of business.

Police say at least 44 shots were fired at the suede nightclub early Sunday morning and when the shooting stopped, a 19-year-old was dead and four others hurt.

The club borders Fisherman's Wharf and the crime has shaken San Francisco's number one tourist destination.

"A tragedy like this where somebody is killed right in a neighborhood where people live, work and visit, is something that is a concern for everybody," Kevin Collins from Fisherman's Wharf CBD said.

Suede has a long history of complaints documented by the city's Entertainment Commission, which regulates nightclubs.

For example at its meeting in august of 2008, a neighbor testified he was awakened by gunfire. In October 2008, a nearby business complained of a riot they had in a parking lot and in September 2009, there's a report that fights are an on-going problem.

"The reality is this has been a club that has been on the watch list. A lot of work has been done with state agencies, not just local agencies," San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said.

But still the club has been allowed to operate until Monday. Now, the city has shut it down for seven days and Suede's owner has voluntarily agreed to a 30-day closure.

But San Franciscans who have fought problem clubs don't think that's enough.

"It just doesn't seem that the Entertainment Commission takes neighbors and their complaints seriously. The police have gone to the commission and pointed out problems with clubs and they have been dismissed," San Francisco resident Frank There said.

The Entertainment Commission was created in 2003, taking the enforcement role out of the hands of police. Chief Gascon says he would like to see Suede's license permanently revoked.

"The mechanisms here are so complex. We have entertainment commissioners and frankly this is a situation where the police department doesn't have control or say," he said.

The State Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has received numerous complaints about suede over the years but none rose to the level of violations. The agency is now involved with the city's police department to investigate the latest incident which has led to a loss of life.