Proposed SFPD crackdown on clubs gets a hearing

Visiting a San Francisco nightclub would be more like boarding an airplane if SFPD gets its way.
Jared and Corin/Creative Commons

A draconian proposal by the San Francisco Police Department to require all visitors to nightclubs in the city to scan their identity cards into a database and go through metal detectors while being filmed by security cameras will be held tomorrow night (Tues/12) by the Entertainment Commission, but an expanding coalition of opponents are rallying against it.

As we reported in December, club owners and nightlife defenders (including the California Music and Culture Association) overwhelmingly oppose the plan, which the American Civil Liberties Union says raises constitutional invasion of privacy issues. In addition, a new coalition of young people called Save the Rave – which turned out hundreds of people for a recent commission hearing on a proposed crackdown on dance parties – is also organizing against the new restrictions.

Police representatives have told us that the proposal stems from concerns about violence in and around nightclubs, that the provisions would allow police to more easily identify suspects when crimes occur, and that police should be trusted not to exploit the data that they're collecting.

But critics of the legislation call it a gross overreaction to a handful of incidents that have happened around nightclubs and they say the SFPD has shown unreasonable bias against one of the city's biggest industries. Sup. Scott Wiener recently asked city staff to prepare a study of the economic impact of nightlife in order to defend clubs against crackdowns like this.

The proposal would also require clubs to have one security guard for every 50 patrons, which club owners say would be an economic hardship for an industry opening on thin margins of profitability. The hearing begins at 6:30 pm in City Hall Room 400.