SF Nightlife Power Struggle Continues

In the very first issue of Nightclub Confidential nearly a year ago, we reported on the battle for power in San Francisco, as the police department and the seven-member Entertainment Commission fought for the ability to shut down nightclubs after the occurrence of violent incidents. At that time, the battle had been ongoing for about 16 months, and now, 11 months after that, the fight continues without resolution. Board of Supervisors President David Chiu asked the city attorney last week to draft legislation to give the Entertainment Commission or another “similar body” the authority to revoke a permit after a serious violation. But whether the Entertainment Commission, which gives out permits, or a “similar body” will gain this power remains to be seen.

The recent push on this issue stems from a fight outside Suede nightclub in Fisherman’s Wharf in February, which left one person dead and four people injured, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. After area residents and business owners asked the Entertainment Commission to shut down the venue due to its repeated history of violence and overcrowding, it was uncovered that the Entertainment Commission did not have the power to revoke the permits it issues, no matter how many times the terms are violated; the bar received a 30-day suspension.

And yet there is much opposition to the Entertainment Commission receiving the power to revoke permits, including the police department and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who went on record saying the panel was ineffective and should be shut down. The power, he said, should rest with the police. Though it won’t be easy to shut the EC down because it’s actually part of the San Francisco City Charter and was approved in 2002. It would take voter approval, which could be costly.

As part of the charter, the Entertainment Commission is comprised of seven civilian members, three appointed by the Board of Supervisors and four by the mayor’s office. Reports last year uncovered that five of the members had direct ties to the entertainment and nightlife industry, with one having ownership stake in a venue where multiple shootings had occurred.

The other aspect of the pending legislation would be an attempt to regulate promoters of “fly by night” events, the Chronicle reports. This kind of event occurs when a promoter rents a club, promotes the event, collects the cover and leaves before the event is over. As of now, promoters are not regulated by the city, which some see as dangerous. “There is a very specific and direct correlation between promoters and acts of violence,” EC Executive Director Bob Davis said during the Public Safety hearing. The problem remains that the commission cannot keep a list of promoters and therefore cannot track any unsafe occurrences related to their events, SF Weekly reports.

The two issues are important to the city and its safety, Chi acknowledges. “The longer-term question of whether or not the Entertainment Commission is the body that uses these powers is still up in the air,” he told SF Weekly.

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