Controversial Commission Pulls SF Nightclub's Permit

By Jessica Greene
|  Thursday, Apr 1, 2010  |  Updated 12:04 PM PDT
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A North Beach nightclub will be forced to close its doors -- at least temporarily -- as a result of violence.

The San Francisco Entertainment Commission decided Wednesday night to suspend the Suede Nightclub permit for 30 days after a man was shot and killed there last month. The unanimous decision came after calls by Mayor Gavin Newsom and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu to revoke the club's permit permanently.

Suede voluntarily  closed temporarily after the shooting, waiting to see what the commission would decide. An attorney for Suede did not dispute the allegations at Wednesday's meeting, and said the club would agree to the 30-day suspension, but alleged  the club was "being painted as a scapegoat" for the homicide.

But, 30 days isn't enough, most in the area say. Neighbors and other business owners had complained about the club to the commission weeks ago. More than 1,000 residents in the area have joined a group called ResidentsCentral and have already signed a petition asking the club be shut down for good.

Wednesday's decision adds tension to the already-strained relationship between the commission and the neighborhood.

Here's a little background, via an editorial in the Chronicle: 

Over the past couple of years, industry players have taken over the commission, and that's not right, either. It has led to conflicts of interest on important votes, and it has kept the commission from acting decisively when it comes to shutting down troubled or dangerous nightspots. There were complaints against Suede dating back to 2007. Tenderloin strip-club Pink Diamonds, which was the scene of a homicide, various shootings and alleged prostitution, had to be shut down by the city attorney. What's the point of the commission, again?

Commissioners are chosen by the mayor and the Board of Supervisors, so it's clear that City Hall needs to clear out some of the deadwood and make room for people who truly represent the interests of residents and law enforcement. City Hall also needs to look into the commissioners' defense, which is that the process for shutting down a club is long and difficult. Is it too long and too difficult? If it is, then the laws need to change, along with the commission.

Before Wednesday's decision, the mayor was unhappy with the commission, our friends at The Chronicle point out, and seemed to be coming around to the idea that the way it operates needs to change.

"I think we can simply do without the Entertainment Commission." Newsom said in the hours before the meeting. "I don't see it adding real value. I don't, at the end of the day, feel it's lived up to its purpose."

The one decision that is certain in this ongoing debate is that the War on Fun is not over.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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