A two-year battle over noise may have finally come to a relatively peaceful close June 5 when both sides made concessions about the presence of Club Six on historically blighted Sixth Street.
In one corner were a few discontented residents of the Lawrence Hotel atop the club and their champion, Paul Hogarth of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic and managing editor of www.BeyondChron.org, who say the noisy club disrupts their lives. On the other side of the ring was Angel Cruz, Club Six's owner and operator, and dozens of supporters who assert that Cruz and his club have revitalized Sixth Street and enriched their lives.
The two sides faced off in front of the Entertainment Commission, which was charged with mediating the dispute and was considering a 30-day suspension of the club's entertainment and after-hours permits. The commission decided to forgo the suspension for now and place the club on a 120-day probationary period, during which any sound violations could trigger an expedited return to the commission and possible shutdown.
Cruz pledged to use the time to finish soundproofing Club Six. He has already poured about a quarter-million dollars into buffering the club's noise, and he just hired an esteemed acoustic consultant to finish the process.
The movement to shut down Club Six was spearheaded by Jim Ayers, a long-term, low-income tenant of the hotel who claims that the noise generated by the club keeps him up all night and that the vibrations are strong enough to knock items off shelves (see "Fury over Sound," 5/23/07).
"The funny thing about this whole process is the better [the soundproofing] gets, the more complaints we get," Cruz told the Guardian. "As long as we are open, Jim Ayers is going to complain."
But not all residents of the Lawrence Hotel are against Club Six. Julius Countryman, another long-term resident, told the commission to rounds of applause from supporters "Club Six keeps me rockin'. It keeps me movin'."
In fact, only a few of the 41 residents of the Lawrence showed up at the hearing to voice displeasure. One tenant claimed "intimidation" kept them away.
Club Six supporters turned out in such large numbers that the hearing had to be moved to a bigger room. Dozens filed before the commission to give impassioned, one-minute pleas as to why the club needs to stay. A few even said Club Six saved their lives. One man who was beaten unconscious down the street from the club said he may not have been alive if Club Six security hadn't stepped in. Another recovering drug addict thanked Cruz for giving him a job when no one else would hire him.
So for now, there's a break in what had been an animated and polarizing conflict pitting low-income residents against those with concerns about growing threats to nightlife and urban culture. (The Guardian's last story on the conflict generated more readers comments than any recent story on our Web site, most of them critical of our perspective.)
Yet the overwhelming response at the hearing brought a perspective to the issue different from what Hogarth and his clients have pushed. And that is, if Club Six closed, more than 50 people employed by the club would face financial hardship, and a unique venue supportive of music, art, and cultural diversity would be sorely missed.
But it remains to be seen whether Cruz can mollify his neighbors and the city officials who are now watching and listening to Club Six.