Truce talks

Police, party promoters, and politicians seek a detente in the War on Fun

Officer Larry Bertrand's aggressive tactics in cracking down on nightclubs and parties fueled a strong community backlash

All parties are hopeful for peace in the Guardian-labeled War on Fun after oppressive raids on SoMa clubs have stopped and the feuding sides — mainly the San Francisco Police Department and nightclub owners — are sitting down to truce talks brokered in part by the fledgling California Music and Culture Association (CMAC).

"I'm here to work with you," Kitt Crenshaw, commander of SFPD's new Entertainment Task Force, told the crowd at a Nightlife Safety Summit on June 30. "I'm not the enemy. I'm not the 'War on Fun,' as they call it. I'm not the Antichrist." The summit was sponsored by the Mayor's Office, Entertainment Commission, SFPD, Small Business Commission, and CMAC.

Club owners and the SFPD are attempting to find balance between stifling the entertainment industry with heavy-handed enforcement and doing something about the deadly gun violence plaguing neighborhoods around some San Francisco nightclubs. Owners and party promoters don't want entertainment permitting power to go back to the SFPD, as Mayor Gavin Newsom has suggested. But recent shootings and the Entertainment Commission's inability to immediately close problem clubs have city officials demanding change.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu introduced legislation in early June that would give the Entertainment Commission the authority to revoke the entertainment permits of noncompliant clubs that are consistently scenes of violence. Chiu's legislation would further extend temporary suspension powers the board granted to the commission in 2009.

"There is strong consensus that the Entertainment Commission needs to do its job. And if this is what it takes to give it more tools, then so be it," Chiu told the Guardian after the June 25 CMAC Insider Luncheon, where he participated in a forum with entertainment industry representatives. Chiu said he was feeling pressure from his constituents in North Beach to "come down like a hammer on the industry" following several shootings around the neighborhood's nightclubs this year.

Terrance Alan, a longtime industry advocate and entertainment commissioner, told the Guardian he recently requested that the City Attorney's Office help define when nightclub owners should be blamed for violence occurring near their business. "If we're going to hold venues and security teams responsible, we have to tell them and make sure it's legal," he said. "The line of reasoning that blames the nearest business will force San Francisco to shut down. The first thing we have to do is stop blaming each other."

Chiu, speaking to a crowd at the Nightlife Safety Summit, recounted a handful of incidents that pushed him to craft the new legislation. Since the last legislation was passed to strengthen the Entertainment Commission's power to regulate nightclubs, eight people were shot outside the Regency night club Nov. 15, 2009; 44 rounds were fired outside club Suede, resulting in one death and four injuries Feb. 7; a shooting occurred on Broadway outside a strip club in mid-February; and a police officer was shot outside the Mission District's El Rincon club on June 19. "And so on, and so on," Chiu said.

Following the shooting at Club Suede, which had long been a site of violence prior to the gang-related carnage in February, officials were stunned to learn the commission did not have the power to revoke entertainment permits. The most it could do was suspend Suede's permit to play music for 30 days.

"To hold the commission responsible for something it was never envisioned to do and never given the power to do is where the narrative has gone wrong recently," Alan said of widespread criticism that the commission just didn't simply "shut down" Club Suede.


My neighborhood (apartments) in western soma was here both before and after 1906. The clubs are very very new comers. Kids from across the bridges and through the tunnels love to come and do things in the City they cannot do in their local communities. We want the club owners to join with us the neighborhoods and work with us to educate their clients that we deserve to live in peace. We no longer want our comments minimized or told we are making a "war on fun". We have had 4 deaths within 5 square blocks within the last 3 years. A club bouncer, a club worker, and then two kids who were at the clubs. If not for the clubs these people would be alive. You cannot sugar coat it.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 07, 2010 @ 7:13 am

I'll tell you what the problem is - it is those people who think they can drink and not have any consequences. If you drink water, the consequence is hydration, and if you drink beer at a club the consequence is possibly getting laid. That may not seem bad, of course. However, your wits will not be about you if you are intoxicated and you may get rapped by a fat chick who hasn't gotten any since 1999. These turn of the century behemoths have no conscience about who they rape. So let that be a warning to everyone, when these kindly peace officers are trying to help!

Posted by Guest on Jul. 07, 2010 @ 11:57 am

My buildings in San Francisco have been around, for many different uses, for many years. There has been thriving nightlife happening in San Francisco since even before the Gold Rush of 1849, long before anyone living in the city was alive. The current nightclubs in SF are descendants of the city's history as much as any existing building or resident can claim to be. A vibrant nightlife in San Francisco is part of its rich traditions. The current problems are rough patches that need to be smoothed out, without resorting to extremes like the recent harassment by Bertrand and Ott of established, well run venues like Great American Music Hall, Cafe Du Nord, DNA Lounge, and others.

There are some problem nightclubs, parties, and/or promoters who give a bad name to the others, just as in any other industry.

There are drunk drivers who cause deaths after drinking at home. If not for alcohol and automobiles those people would be alive. There are deaths due to boating accidents. If not for boats those people would be alive. There are deaths due to lung cancer from cigarettes. If not for tobacco those people would be alive. There are people who commit suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. If not for that bridge those people would be alive.

It's not sugar coating to say that life is hazardous and that there are ways to make it safer.

Those problem clubs, parties, and/or promoters are the ones that need to be scutinized, in a FAIR manner, and held accountable for the problems that they cause. It's entirely possible to have a vibrant, SAFE, and profitable nightlife in San Francisco. None of these are mutually exclusive. Maximizing all of them together is what everyone should be working towards.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 11, 2010 @ 11:18 pm

(Edit: "My buildings," above, should read "Many buildings")

Posted by Guest on Jul. 11, 2010 @ 11:19 pm

I am sick and tired of David Chiu and his disingenuous rant about "street crime is down but club violence is up", therefore "clubs need to be reined in". Chiu is running for DA or something, and Gavin is running for Lt. Governor and they want to boast how crime is down in SF. Guess what? Street assaults and gun violence are not down. Talk to any beat cop and he will tell you what's really happening on the street. Its getting pretty crazy out there and we are ALL victims of this-- neighbors, clubs, businesses, club security, police. Bravo to Bevin Dufty for having the cajones to tell the truth about youth violence.

Posted by Tommy Gunn on Jul. 12, 2010 @ 5:51 pm

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