After hearing testimony from angry residents, businesses and police, the San Francisco Entertainment Commission tonight agreed to a 30-day suspension of the permit of the Suede nightclub, the site of a recent homicide and other violence.
The unanimous decision came after calls by Mayor Gavin Newsom and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu to revoke the club’s permit permanently.
In the early morning hours of Feb. 7, 44 shots were fired outside the club, located at 383 Bay St. near Fisherman’s Wharf, killing one man and injuring four others, including one of the two suspected gunman, who was arrested at the scene.
Police have said the shooting was prompted by gang tensions in the city of Richmond.
At tonight’s hearing, attorneys from the San Francisco city attorney’s office presented evidence of numerous complaints by neighborhood residents about ongoing noise and rowdy behavior outside the club.
Police testified about several incidents in the past 14 months, including violent assaults inside and outside the club, overcrowding, alcohol violations and inadequate security.
Police said the club has been among the most problematic in the city.
Since the Feb. 7 homicide, Suede management has agreed to a voluntary closure pending the results of tonight’s hearing.
An attorney for Suede did not dispute the allegations this evening, and said the club would agree to the 30-day suspension, but alleged the club was “being painted as a scapegoat” for the homicide.
“They don’t know when and if they’re going to reopen,” attorney Arthur Lipton said. He indicated that if the club reopened, it might be in a different capacity.
This morning, Newsom called for the club to be closed, and also for changes to the Entertainment Commission, according to his spokesman Tony Winnicker.
Winnicker said Newsom “understands and sympathizes with the frustration of the neighbors” at the delay in closing the club.
“The inability of the Entertainment Commission to simply shut this club down, which almost everybody agrees should happen, speaks to the impotence of the commission in these situations and of the need to either dramatically reform the commission, or end it,” Winnicker said.
The commission began in 2003 after a voter-approved ballot measure, and its members include people in the entertainment industry.
“The mayor continues to have doubts that those who benefit from the industry should also be those who police the industry,” said Winnicker. “And even though they might have the power to act in these situations, they may not have the will.”
One commissioner, Terrance Alan, said a “legislative remedy” was needed to allow the commission to take more serious action.
According to Chiu, the commission’s regulatory power could potentially be transferred to another city body or agency, but he said tonight he was not yet prepared to move in that direction.
Suede’s permit will be revoked for 30 days beginning April 5. Following that, further offenses could bring 30- and 90-day suspensions from the commission.
According to the city attorney’s office, the commission can also permanently revoke a club’s permit if it violates the city’s police code by either being found to have made false statements on an application; by failing to pay any city fees or charges; or by failing to surrender its permit upon sale of the business.
The city attorney’s office did not present evidence tonight that the club violated any of those provisions.