Mayor Lee praises the importance of nightlife to SF

CMAC Chair Alix Rosenthal introduces Mayor Ed Lee as Entertainment Commissioner Steven Lee (left) looks on.
Steven T. Jones

Addressing a gathering of nightlife advocates at a California Music and Culture Association event last night, Mayor Ed Lee praised the economic and cultural role that the entertainment industry plays in San Francisco, announced plans to add a “nightlife unit” in the Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development, and even hinted that Halloween in the Castro might be returning after being shut down during the city's so-called “war on fun.”

“If I'm going to be about jobs,” he said, referring to his near-constant emphasis on economic development, “it should be both for the day and for the night...I do recognize this as a business, as a serious contributor to the economic engine of city.”

Lee referenced the new Controller's Office report that was requested by Sup. Scott Wiener, which concludes that the nightlife industry generates about $4.2 billion in annual economic activity in the city (that report will be the subject of a rally and hearing on Monday at City Hall starting on the steps at noon). And he said that the benefits of a vibrant nightlife scene also help make San Francisco an appealing city for other businesses, an indirect economic benefit.

“You're all part of a great part of the city that keeps everyone refreshed,” Lee said, later adding, “I think we can do more at night. The young people who work gobs of hours need to have an entertaining evening.”

As he announced plans to add a nightlife unit to OEWD, the office that works with private companies looking to locate or expand here, he said, “We, as government, need to fast-track things that are successful.” Yet he also said that public safety is still a challenge and called for the industry to work closely with police to keep everyone safe.

Yet Lee spoke positively about Halloween in the Castro, a once-popular event that was canceled because Mayor Gavin Newsom and then-Sup. Bevan Dufty (who Lee recently hired as his new homeless czar) feared the city couldn't control it, and Lee alluded to plans being developed to revive it in some form. “I hate to see any event that brought so many people to the city gone,” he said.

The event was held at The Grand, a club owned by CMAC board member and new Entertainment Commissioner Steven Lee. CMAC was formed two years ago in response to crackdowns on SF nightlife by city and state officials.