Nightlife: Fun plus jobs

San Francisco supervisor Scott Weiner on what clubs mean to our community

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By Supervisor Scott Weiner

OPINION We all know the cultural benefits of nightlife. It's fun. We get to meet people — friends, lovers, and all the rest. We build community. We hear great music. We dance. We spend time outside on our streets. For LGBT people, we meet other LGBTs and keep our community strong. The list goes on: Without a strong entertainment scene, including bars, clubs, live music venues, arts venues, night-time restaurants, and street fairs, our city would be a less interesting and less diverse place.

But the undisputed cultural importance of nightlife isn't the whole story. Nightlife is a significant economic contributor to San Francisco. It creates jobs, particularly for working-class and young people. It generates tax revenue that helps fund Muni, health clinics, and parks. It allows creative entrepreneurs to start businesses. It generates tourism. It draws foot traffic into neighborhoods to the benefit of other neighborhood businesses.

This is all pretty intuitive. Yet, as a city, we've never actually measured the economic impact of our nightlife scene. One of my first acts a member of the Board of Supervisors was to request the city economist to conduct an economic impact study doing just that.

The study is almost done, and we already have a few preliminary results. Nightlife in San Francisco generates $4.2 billion a year in spending, with $1 billion of that amount coming from bars, clubs, performance venues, and art spaces. Some 48,000 people are employed in nightlife businesses, and these businesses contribute $55 million a year in local taxes. On March 5, we'll announce the full results of the study at a hearing of the Land Use and Economic Development Committee.

This data will help us make smart public policy around nightlife. In the past, those decisions frequently have been driven by anecdote and over-reaction to isolated events. Trouble near a small number of nightclubs? The city responds by making it difficult for all nightclubs to operate, even those with excellent safety records and despite the dramatic improvement in the Entertainment Commission's oversight. Or, the city goes even further and proposes requiring all clubs, even small ones, to scan ID cards of everyone who enters. (That proposal, thankfully, was roundly rejected.)

When we make these decisions, we should do so with a full understanding not just of the downsides of nightlife but of the positives, including cultural and economic benefits.

Entertainment is under pressure in San Francisco. There are neighborhoods with significant friction between housing and nightlife. Some of that friction results from a small number of problem venues. Other times, a good venue is jeopardized for simply conducting its business within the limits of San Francisco law — for example, a single neighbor got Slim's shut down for a few weeks for noise, despite the club's compliance with our noise ordinance.

We also continue to have bizarre Planning Code restrictions that undermine entertainment, such as the Mission Alcohol Special Use District, which makes it difficult or impossible to start creative new businesses in the Mission if alcohol is involved. This provision almost prevented a new bowling alley from locating at 17th and South Van Ness. Similarly, some are concerned that the Western SoMa Plan, as currently written, will undermine nightlife on 11th Street by surrounding clubs with new housing and by reducing the number of venues.

A thriving nightlife scene is key to our city's cultural identity and economic future. Now that we have the data on its benefits, we can take a more balanced and thoughtful approach.

Supervisor Scott Wiener represents District 8 on the Board of Supervisors. The March 5 hearing will start with a noon rally on the steps of City Hall followed by the hearing at 1 p.m. in City Hall Room 263.

 

Comments

As someone who came to San Francisco partially because of its legacy as world-class cultural innovator i'm truly heartened to see all of the great work that is being done to preserve and even enrich nightlife in our city. We are lucky to live in a city where entertainment and community are so intertwined. As a member of the nightlife community i've seen firsthand the ability of parties and clubs to raise crucial funds for institutions like Lyon Martin Health Services and the Stop AIDS Project to name a few. San Francisco has a history of nightlife coexisting with neighbors and with continued dialogue on both sides i'm certain that this relationship can be further strengthened. Thanks to Supervisor Wiener for spearheading efforts to show the impact that San Francisco nightlife has on small businesses, workers and the city coffers.

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Posted by Porter on Jun. 03, 2013 @ 1:04 pm

Supervisor Wiener should let "some" people know that the Western SoMa planning process tried very hard to come up with recommendations for nighttime entertainment that are a net gain for the entertainment industry but also take into account neighborhood concerns and make room for the growth of entertainment in the context of a complete neighborhood. No other planning process in recent memory has even bothered to try.

CMAC (and certain entertainment commissioners) ignored six years worth of effort by the Western SoMa Task Force, hoping to bypass the community process, in order to get their way through old-fashioned lobbying and calling in political favors.

In terms of "surrounding clubs with new housing," there's only one opportunity site on 11th Street that might pose any threat to nearby clubs and this developer is well on his way to final approval of an as-of-right project. Housing has been fully permitted there for more than twenty years. The Western SoMa Plan, if adopted soon, would impose some serious sound attenuation requirements on the project. "Reducing the number of venues?" There is absolutely no truth to this assertion.

Jim Meko, chair
Western SoMa Citizens Planning Task Force
www.sfgov.org/westernsoma

Posted by Jim Meko on Feb. 29, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

I'm tired of driving to Berkeley to visit a gay bathhouse. Why should gays have to leave the city just to get a room with a lock and a door, some privacy and sex with another man? The sex clubs of San Francisco are tired venues subject to monitoring, telling gay men they can't be trusted.

Posted by Joe Caputo on Mar. 03, 2012 @ 4:44 pm

Just like Michael Petrelis' endless obsession with the gay flag in the Castro and the controversy over whether transsexuals are real "wimmin" or not.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 03, 2012 @ 6:31 pm

As someone who is trying to open a bar in a location which has historically been a bar for the last 40 years, but still getting push back from the city officials and SFPD, I want to urge the city, board of supervisors and SFPD to wake up and take this study seriously. Not all bars are places of problems. Not all businesses are run badly. There need to be checks and balances in place to weed out the problem businesses. But, an entire industry cannot be blacklisted because of a few bad apples.

San Francisco needs to once again reclaim it's lost fame of having a vibrant and fun and safe nightlife.

Posted by Rakesh Modi on Mar. 07, 2012 @ 8:40 am

Will make this short. Remember Winterland, see Winterland, see NIMBY, see people who live and work somewhere else and have to put up with noise.

Posted by garrett on Apr. 10, 2012 @ 3:05 pm

Economic growth is dependent upon two human behavoirs on how one spends available personal capital resources ----which for the most of us comes from our income paychecks. One is that supply must meet demand in both products and services. Two, and what is less known, is the velocity, or time cycles in which capital exchange from point ' A ' to point ' B '. In simple terms is how momey goes from one pock to another.

The aspect of nightlife entertainment and its central importance is that this socio-cultural sector's activities in the velocity of capital exchanges is equual to similar velocity rates found on Wall Street exchanges; they both having similar anxieties over the flow of capitsal and growh expectations or the loss of. None the less, nightlife entertainment is more stable as at its centered are the core of performers, and services who are fighting their own fears of impending poverty, and who are more dependent upon public approval as a result than the stock brockesr. More importantly, the ability if this sector to raise local socio-cultural aspirations are far more significant to local economies than which exist upon the national scene. Just look at both the Hip Hop culture as well as more recent the economic mini-booms following the economic impact trail of " Lady GaGa' - where local dress shops and restaurant sales are increased after each stop on her present concert tours.

It is the activities and the crtical aspects of economic velocity rates which becomes far greater in their acceleration rates which is the national leading factor for economic growth within nightlife entertainnent than Wall Street; this is very visable within the urban setting, and extremely observable in poverty urban settings where the triggers are found within the Hip Hop cultures. Some how the velocity rates which flows from Wall Street are immediately slowed or halted when their profits are held in holding reserves-where the mass of capital is allowed to attract higher interests rates of loans.

What should peek your interests is that once in history this was the very fundementals being imployed by King Louis XIV in his full development of his royal court, and developing France into the leading cultural capital of Europe - which its nightlife entertainment still maintains the traditions of Intrernational Cultural Leadership - even under circumstance when France was bankrupt, or under Nazi occupaiion, IE, Fashions, Cafes, and The Ballet. It is how which leads one to focus on wha triggers increases in velocity rates..

Email me if you want to know more .....or go and dig up KIng Louis

" May all of you prosper."

Mr. Roger M. Christian, Ithaca, New York

Posted by Guest Mr. Roger M. Christian on Oct. 15, 2012 @ 9:22 am

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