Rip up the mayor's club-violence plan

Newsom and Maxwell's plan will almost certainly damage the creative underside of the city's entertainment scene
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EDITORIAL Back in January, 34-year-old Clarence Corbin was shot and killed during a fight outside Jelly's Dance Café nightclub in Mission Bay. Mayor Gavin Newsom leapt into action, announcing that this sort of violence was unacceptable. We're with the mayor on that, although we wish he'd shown the same kind of energy in dealing with the epidemic of shootings in the Bayview and Western Addition over the past few years.

But his solution — a crackdown on nightclub promoters — is unlikely to do anything about violence and will almost certainly damage the creative underside of the city's entertainment scene.

Sup. Sophie Maxwell is carrying the mayor's legislation, which she introduced March 4. Some of the provisions just seem silly: the bill, for example, would ban "loitering" within 10 feet of a club between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. Of course, people stand outside clubs all the time — among other things, to smoke cigarettes — so the bill says smokers would be exempted. So would people who are waiting for cabs. People who simply wanted some fresh air or to make a phone call (or to make out away from the dance floor) would be subject to fines. The loitering law, like most similar laws, seems like a blueprint for discriminatory and illegal enforcement. (Will young African American men get cited more often than white people? Of course they will.)

How are the cops going to decide who's really waiting for a ride (cabs can take half an hour to arrive on a Saturday night) and who's just hanging out? Might potential troublemakers just light up a cigarette and thus be free from legal action? It's hard to see the practical logic here.

Then there's the provision that would require promoters who hold two or more club events a year to obtain a permit (and presumably, pay a fee). Applicants would have to have proof of $1 million in liability insurance.

That, frankly, would kill a whole lot of small-time events in San Francisco.

Although Newsom complained to the press about "fly-by-night promoters," the city's full of well-established people who do shows at various clubs with various programs a few times a year or a few times a month — and most of them are small-time operators. Very few have ever had any problems with the law, or promoted a show that led to violence — but most of them would have to shut down, because the $1 million in insurance money would be too expensive.

The Bay Area Reporter suggested March 13 that the bill could harm nonprofit events promoters by forcing them to devote much of the charitable take from their shows to paying for insurance and security plans.

We just don't see how any of this really addresses the problem of violence outside of San Francisco clubs (and we don't really see that clubs are to blame for much of the violence in the city anyway). When Sup. Ross Mirkarimi tried to get Mayor Newsom to put cops on foot in high-crime areas, the mayor balked. When Sup. Chris Daly tried to create a violence-prevention program that might have actually gotten to the root causes of this horrible pattern of kids killing one another, the mayor rejected it.

Instead, he wants to create a strange and ineffective plan to give police an excuse to arrest the wrong people that will penalize the small promoters who every week give so much to the city's cultural landscape.

If club owners are concerned about crowds fomenting violence outside their doors, then the problem needs to be addressed. But this is an ass-backward way to do it. The supervisors need to rip this plan apart and start fresh.