Will entering a large nightclub in San Francisco be akin to a TSA pat down? We won’t know for a while, as the proposal for heightened security measures  by San Francisco Police has caught the interest of Mayor Ed Lee and further discussion has been stalled pending his analysis.
A hearing last night (Tues/12) at the Entertainment Commission proved to be a disappointment for the dozens of people who attended in hopes of getting closure on the hotly contested proposal, which has drawn criticism for its infringement on freedom and privacy and burdensome cost to club owners, as well as being the latest battle in San Francisco’s War on Fun.
“We need to protect our events,” said Liam Shy of the organization Save the Rave, a coalition of people dedicated to keeping electronic dance parties alive. “They are in a state of crisis right now, and this would make it much worse.”
Shy and fellow Save the Rave member Matt Kaftor saw the mayor’s interest in the issue was a good indication that community dissent has been heard.
“I would be truly shocked if this passed,” said Kaftor. “If it does, we will be protesting constantly.”
The proposal would require all venues with an occupancy of 100 or more people to record the faces of all patrons and employees and scan their IDs for storage in a database, which would be available to law enforcement on request for at least two weeks. Metal detectors, security cameras and brighter lights in the venues would also be required. The proposal was created in response to recent violence in and around nightclubs, most notably the shooting outside Suede in Fisherman’s Wharf last year that resulted in the closing of the club.
However, critics say this is an overreaction that unfairly targets events as sources of violence.
“What I keep getting from measures like this is that police work is hard,” said SF resident Jonathan Duggan. “But instead of doing their hard work, they are just creating another avenue for privacy invasion that shifts the responsibility to everyone else.”
Although the main target is nightclubs, many events in San Francisco would be affected. Events with strong cultural, ideological, and political components are frequently held at venues that would be affected by these rules.
Eva Galperin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation showed up last night prepared to give the commission a piece of her mind. She shared a letter with us outlining her concerns, which listed the support of many other civil liberty and privacy protection groups such as the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.
“The city of San Francisco has a long history of political activism and cultural diversity which would be profoundly threatened by this proposed rule,” Galperin wrote. “Scanning the IDs of all attendees at an anti-war rally, a gay night club, or a fundraiser for a civil liberties organization would result in a deeply chilling effect on speech…This would transform the politically and culturally tolerant environment for which San Francisco is famous into a police state.”
District 8 Supervisor Scott Weiner, who has been instrumental in the effort to keep events in San Francisco alive, told us that he does not support the proposal. His resolution to protect events passed the Board of Supervisors on March 29 and focuses on collaboration between city agencies and nightclub owners to combat violence rather than simply cracking down on entertainment venues.
“It’s one thing for a large club with a history of problems to receive those kinds of exceptional security measures, but for the majority of clubs, it strikes me as overkill as well as invasion of privacy,” Weiner told us.
Jocelyn Kane, executive director of the Entertainment Commission, could not give any indication as to when another hearing would be or what prompted the mayor’s decision. Neither she nor the mayor’s office could elaborate on whether the mayor has problems with the proposal or is simply responding to the public outrage.