Still no peace treaty in SF's War on Fun

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Officer Larry Bertrand was recently deposed in a lawsuit that alleges his harassment of club owners was criminal behavior.

Boiling outrage over the city's boundary-pushing crackdown on San Francisco nightlife may have slowed to a simmer since the spring, when overzealous enforcement efforts (harassing club owners, confiscating computers from DJs, dumping booze down the drain like Prohibition Era agents, etc.) prompted back-and-back cover stories in the Bay Guardian and SF Weekly. But the fallout is still unfolding in ways that could eventually cause real problems for the city.

A trial date has been set for a year from now in what could be an expensive and ground-breaking racketeering lawsuit brought on behalf of several victims of the plain-clothed, party-crashing duo of San Francisco Police Officer Larry Bertrand and California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Officer Michelle Ott.

Since their aggressive and seemingly moralistic crusade against clubs and parties was publicized, both have had their wings clipped by their supervisors, but the damage was done and the check still hasn't been paid. Attorney Mark Webb, who brought the lawsuit, has deposed both Bertrand and Ott and he says they gave testimony that was damaging to themselves and the city's legal position. And Webb says he's just getting warmed up.

“I still want to take [Mayor Gavin] Newsom's deposition,” Webb told us. “He's a named defendant and I want to know what he knew about this.”

The SFPD didn't seem chastened by the bout of bad publicity, at least if their recent cancellation of the Lovevolution parade was any indicator. And Board of Supervisors President David Chiu this week introduced legislation that would require party promoters to register with the city and require that clubs work only with registered promoters, an apparent reaction to the shooting of a German tourist near Union Square and other episodes of nighttime violence.

“The lack of oversight of fly-by-night party promoters has led to avoidable tragedies,” Chiu said in a press release announcing the legislation.

Meanwhile, the organization that formed to counter the crackdown and scapegoating of nightlife purveyors, the California Music and Culture Association, has continued to advocate for a more reasoned response to problems that Chiu and other politicians have sought to blame on nightclubs.

Tomorrow (Fri/24), CMAC will host its latest event, a Meet the Press Luncheon at which I and other journalists will be appearing to discuss nightlife issues and how they are covered in the media, with some supervisorial candidates also expected to attend. The event is at noon at Mezzanine, 444 Jessie Street, SF.

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