January 29, 2003

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Is this performance art?
Stunned Lingba Lounge patrons think first act strange as police drive away with confiscated music equipment

By Corbett Miller

Lingba Lounge has had a difficult run during its year and a half in business at the corner of 18th and Connecticut Streets. The club and Thai restaurant's sound system and its patrons have been contentious issues for the Potrero Hill neighbors who have continually complained about Lingba's late hours and loud music. So far, even though the San Francisco Police Department and neighborhood-advocate groups have lined up behind the neighbors, they have failed to stop the music.

But what Lingba owner Cody Robertson wasn't prepared for were the five cops who he says came into the club late Saturday night and confiscated his turntables, taking the battle against local music venues to a new level.

"The officer in charge told me he was tired of me pushing his buttons and decided to arrest my turntables," Robertson says.

In September 2002 the Potrero Boosters Neighborhood Association successfully rallied to get the Bayview Police Station to deny Lingba's entertainment permit and are attempting to do the same for the hearing before the Board of Appeals, scheduled for Jan. 29.

In a Jan. 15 open letter to the Board of Appeals, Potrero Boosters president John deCastro wrote, "Cody Robertson ... has had numerous opportunities for more than a year to address his neighbors' concerns. For more than a year, he ignored them."

Since the September hearing, Robertson has been operating under the same exemption several South of Market clubs have used. By not paying DJs, Robertson has kept the music on while waiting for the voter-approved Entertainment Commission to begin hearing permit requests this summer (see "Show's Over," 10/23/02). But then the SFPD, the very group that is currently in charge of issuing permits, allegedly drove off with $1,200 worth of his turntable equipment.

"The Civil Grand Jury, the Board of Supervisors, the mayor, and San Francisco voters have all agreed that the police handling of entertainment permits has been arbitrary, unfair, and damaging to the economy of the city," says Terrance Alan, chair of the San Francisco Late Night Coalition.

Robertson is still unclear what gave the police the right to walk away with the club's equipment. Calls by the Bay Guardian to the department's public affairs office were directed to Officer Paul Swiatko, who couldn't be reached by press time.

Let's hope the police didn't "damage" the turntables when they jammed them into the cruiser, leaving stunned patrons waiting for the second act to begin.

Lingba Lounge's Board of Appeals hearing is scheduled for Jan. 29, 5 p.m., City Hall, Room 416, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Pl., S.F., (415) 575-6880. E-mail Corbett Miller at corbett@sfbg.com.