Truce talks - Page 2

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

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

Suede remains voluntarily closed as it bargains with the City Attorney's Office, which filed a complaint against the club after the shootings. Alex Tse, the lead attorney for the city in the case, told the Guardian there was nothing he could legally do to prevent Suede from reopening before Aug. 10, when the court is scheduled to rule on a preliminary injunction (court mandated closing) the City Attorney's Office filed. But he doesn't expect them to reopen because Suede and the city are currently working toward settling the case.

If the incidents Chiu described represent a black eye for San Francisco's entertainment industry, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and SFPD aren't necessarily squeaky clean either. "I sat down with [ABC director] Steve Hardy and told him that where the state was focusing efforts in San Francisco was completely misguided," Chiu said at the CMAC luncheon. "And I've spoken to [California Senator] Mark Leno to try to move them in the right direction."

The break in the crackdowns of 2009, mostly attributed to severe tactics employed by SFPD Officer Larry Bertrand and ABC agent Michelle Ott, followed a widespread backlash to the sometimes brutal treatment legitimate business owners were receiving in the name of public safety. Back-to-back over stories in the Guardian (see "The new War on Fun," March 23, 2010) and the SF Weekly, calls to the ABC from city officials, the formation of CMAC, and a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) suit filed against San Francisco and the rogue officers spurred officials to rein in Ott and Bertrand.

Hardy told the Guardian that Ott is no longer assigned to alcohol enforcement in San Francisco. Bertrand has traded in his plain-clothes for a uniform and hasn't been seen busting into clubs, beating up the help, or confiscating DJ equipment for several months.

Mark Webb, plaintiff's attorney in the RICO case, which was moved to the federal court by the City Attorney's Office, said Bertrand is scheduled to give a deposition for the case July 26. Webb told the Guardian he plans to ask Bertrand questions relating to "a pattern of ongoing and repeated abuses" claimed in the complaint, which includes Newsom and ABC as defendants.

"We're at a crossroads," Chiu told the crowd at the Nightlife Safety Summit, adding that if the new power for the Entertainment Commission does not reduce club violence, stronger measures would be taken, whether it's Newsom's suggestion to scrap the commission entirely and give permitting power back to the police department or Chiu's idea to create another "less politicized" body to issue entertainment permits made up of representatives from city department that are affected when nightlife entertainment goes wrong.

"There has been significant dissatisfaction with the Entertainment Commission due to many actual and apparent conflicts of interests," Chiu said. "Frankly, this is why we may need to move to a different model of who actually makes decisions on permits, because often the people who want to make those decisions are the ones who stand to get the most benefit out of them."

But club owners and party promoters argue that the police issuing entertainment permits, as they did prior to the Entertainment Commission's creation in 2002, has a chilling effect on an important part of San Francisco's economy.

Alan said a civil grand jury found the police department had a conflict of interest in being both the granter and enforcer of nightclub permits, a finding that spurred the creation of the Entertainment Commission.

"I've been in the industry long enough to remember when it was in the Police Department's hands," said Guy Carson, owner of Café Du Nord and director of CMAC. "Since the advent of the Entertainment Commission, more permits have been issued, which has vitalized the industry."

Comments

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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