SF Gets Tough on Nightclubs

Swift shutdown ordinance expected to get Newsom's nod

By Terry Collins
|  Saturday, Aug 7, 2010  |  Updated 1:30 PM PDT
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BALI, INDONESIA - AUGUST 27, 2005: Clubbers attend a large dance party at GWK Cultural Park early August 27, 2005 in Jimbaran, Bali, Indonesia. Bali's nightclub scene is starting to feel the effects of a crackdown on drugs by Indonesian Police. Twenty-four-year-old Sydney model Michelle Leslie is the latest in a string of foreigners to be caught in an anti-drugs crackdown. Leslie was allegedly caught with two Ecstasy tablets in her handbag after police raided a large dance party at the GWK Cultural Park early Saturday, August 20. Under Indonesian Law Leslie could face up to 15 years in jail if found guilty for drug possession. Indonesia has strict anti-drug policies with a maximum penalty of the death sentence. Already facing a possible death penalty are the Bali nine, the eight Australian men and one woman accused of trying to smuggle more than 8kgs of heroin from Bali to Australia in April. (Photo by Dimas Ardian/Getty Images)

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Historically hard-partying San Francisco is poised to adopt a get-tough ordinance that officials hope will allow the swift shutdown of nightspots that become magnets for violence.

The measure giving San Francisco's beleaguered Entertainment Commission the power to revoke the operating permits of troubled clubs comes after residential complaints about noise, unruliness and gunplay, mostly outside popular spots in the wee-morning hours.

Last month, there was a fatal shooting outside a popular Mission Bay nightclub. And six months ago, a hail of 44 bullets outside a notorious club in the Fisherman's Wharf area left one person dead and four critically injured.

For more than three years, Club Suede was on the radar of the commission and police. Neighbors repeatedly said the two-story club was too crowded, too loud and did little to tame the debauchery that occurred at closing time. After 100 police responded to the fatal gunfire outside the club in February, Club Suede had its license suspended. It remains closed.

"San Francisco has had a very vibrant nightlife with many clubs who have operated very well without affecting their surroundings," said David Chiu, a county supervisor whose district encompasses the Wharf, North Beach, Union Square and Nob Hill. "But unfortunately we've had some problematic clubs with histories of violence.”

Chiu said the City is averaging a club-related shooting a month.

About 2 percent of the city's 1,500 recognized nightspots now are considered trouble spots, said police Cmdr. Jim Dudley. The ordinance is long overdue, Dudley said.

"If this is used quickly and judiciously," Dudley said, "it could help the industry and public safety."

Previously, the commission had authority to temporarily suspend a venue's operating permit but it could only be revoked if the owner falsified the permit application.

But with the Board of Supervisors recently voting unanimously to expand the commission's power to revoke a venue's permit, Chiu said, "There's no more excuses."

Mayor Gavin Newsom, who this spring questioned the commission's effectiveness, is expected to sign the measure into law next week.

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