The Prozac of Nightclubs Gets a Reprieve

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Jelly's Dance Cafe. Photo: Thomas Hawk

    A diverse group of people packed a San Francisco Entertainment  Commission meeting at City Hall on Tuesday to show their support for the  embattled dance venue Jelly's, which faces closure in the wake of a recent  fatal shooting.

    About two-dozen members of the public addressed the commission on  the venue's behalf, sharing stories of how they fell in love with Jelly's,  arguing that the club isn't responsible for the recent violence, and begging  commissioners to stop its eviction.

    But there might be nothing the commission can do to save Jelly's;  it was the Port of San Francisco that recently terminated its lease, giving  the owners until Aug. 18 to clear out.
         
    The eviction notice was served after 39-year-old Lee Farley of  Richmond was shot once in the chest on July 11 outside the venue, located at  295 Terry A. Francois Blvd.

    The Entertainment Commission reviewed the venue's dated  entertainment permit on Tuesday and made several recommendations, but the  changes wouldn't block the closure.

    Fans of Jelly's who showed up at the meeting seemed to need  someone to vent to and spoke for nearly an hour, even as commissioners  repeatedly reminded them that they have no power to stop the eviction.

    The outpouring of support, which was occasionally accompanied by  choked-back tears, painted a picture of what Jelly's means to the Bay Area  salsa community.

    At least three people compared the dance locale, which has live  salsa bands on Sundays, to church.

    One woman declared emphatically, "It's my Prozac."

    Another speaker received a round of applause when he admitted to  leaving "work, funerals and family gatherings to go to Jelly's."

    But the point many of the speakers made sure to include was, "I  have never not felt safe there."

    Only one speaker, a resident of the Radiance at Mission Bay  housing complex near Jelly's, asked commissioners to boost safety in the  area.

    "It was really interesting," Jocelyn Kane, the deputy director of  the Entertainment Commission, said today. "That was probably only the third  time we've ever had an absolutely full room of entertainment supporters. I  think that's really valuable."

    After many of the speakers alleged that the port had ulterior  motives in shuttering the venue, the commission offered the podium for  rebuttal from port representatives, but no one came forward.

    Port spokeswoman Renee Dunn Martin said before the meeting on  Tuesday that port officials feel it is in the public's best interest to close  Jelly's.

    She said that in addition to a January 2008 fatal shooting that  also happened outside the club, Jelly's has received many noise complaints  and was operating outside of its lease agreement by functioning as a dance  club when the lease was for a full-service restaurant.

    G. Whitney Leigh, the attorney representing Jelly's, maintains the  establishment is a full-service restaurant.

    Some speakers complained that the Entertainment Commission paved  the way for the port's eviction notice by suspending Jelly's license for  seven days after the shooting. The commission maintained that a "cooling-off  period" was necessary after such a violent crime.

    Leigh has argued that the venue was unfairly targeted and that  police reports that the shooting stemmed from an argument inside the  establishment are inaccurate.

    However, Lt. Mike Stasko of the Police Department's homicide unit  said today that the investigation indicates the shooting was preceded by a  disagreement inside Jelly's during a private party there.

    Stasko said investigators believe the victim, Farley, exchanged  words or eye contact with his killer. He said video footage shows the suspect  closely following Farley out of the club just before the shooting.

    "It's still our contention that something happened inside," he  said.

    No arrests have been made in the case.

    Even though the commission emphasized it cannot stop the eviction,  its members sympathized with the speakers on Tuesday.

    "It's culturally relevant and vital for the City to keep a place  like that, and to lose it would be really negative," Kane said.