The future of a popular Mission Bay dance venue is was expected to be discussed Tuesday night at a San Francisco Entertainment Commission meeting at City Hall.
Supporters of Jelly’s, a well-loved salsa hot spot and music venue at 295 Terry A. Francois Blvd., planned to attend Tuesday’s meeting, but the club’s fate appears to be out of the commission’s hands; Jelly’s received an eviction notice from the Port of San Francisco last week.
The notice was prompted by a fatal shooting outside the club just over two weeks ago.
The eviction has upset the venue’s owners and rattled the devoted community members that will always remember Jelly’s as a place of steady grooves and smooth moves, not blood and gunshots.
The killing that shoved Jelly’s into the limelight occurred during a private party at the establishment on July 11.
Lee Farley, 39, of Richmond was shot once in the chest in a parking lot outside Jelly’s at about 1:40 a.m. He later died at San Francisco General Hospital. Police have not made any arrests in the case.
The Entertainment Commission suspended Jelly’s operating license for seven days after the shooting.
As that suspension neared its end, Jelly’s owners were working with the commission and police to discuss security, according to an attorney for Jelly’s.
But the port served the venue with its eviction notice on July 19, one day after the suspension ended. Jelly’s now has until Aug. 18 to vacate the premises.
Police initially said the shooting stemmed from an altercation between two partygoers inside the club, an account that Jelly’s disputes.
G. Whitney Leigh, the San Francisco attorney hired by Jelly’s owner Clarice Lacau, said two homicide investigators from the Bayview Station told Jelly’s proprietors that the altercation began and ended outside the establishment.
He said that initial account led to Jelly’s being “defamed.”
“If you shut down every business because someone was assaulted outside of that business, we wouldn’t have any businesses left in the city,” said Leigh, who is with the law firm Gonzalez and Leigh.
But even if the argument that prompted the shooting happened outside Jelly’s, the Port of San Francisco feels that it is acting in the public’s best interest by shuttering the establishment, port spokeswoman Renee Dunn Martin said Tuesday.
Martin said that in addition to the recent shooting – which, along with a 2008 fatal shooting at Jelly’s, was the main impetus for the eviction – the dance cafe had 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.
“It might be the public’s perspective that this is a great club and many people enjoy going there, and I can understand that, but at the same time we have a contract agreement with the leaseholders there,” Martin said.
“When they go outside of their contract agreement, that gives us the right to exercise contract termination if we feel that’s necessary, which we obviously did,” she said.
Leigh maintained that Jelly’s is, in fact, a full-service restaurant as stipulated by its lease agreement. He suggested that the establishment had been unfairly targeted.
Meanwhile, supporters have been working to keep Jelly’s open. On the venue’s website is a link to a petition in support of Jelly’s. As of Tuesday afternoon, it had been electronically signed by 282 people and “liked” by 131 people on Facebook.
The petition alleges that the port is simply trying to evict Jelly’s to reclaim the valuable waterfront property on which it sits for redevelopment.
Martin called that claim “absolutely not true.”
“The property is considered retail space, so anything that happened with that prop going forward would have to go through a public bid process,” Martin said. She said it is too early to even discuss about the site’s future.
Rodney Aquino, a local salsa dancer and instructor who often hosted and promoted events at Jelly’s, has been hit hard by the venue’s troubles and hopes tonight’s meeting leads to new possibilities for keeping it alive.
Aquino had signed a contract with Jelly’s to have an event at the venue on the Wednesday after the shooting, and was thrown for a loop when Jelly’s was suddenly closed.
Though he was able to scramble and find an alternate venue for his event at Roccapulco on Mission Street, Aquino estimates that he lost 50 percent of his projected attendance because people were confused about the change of location.
Aquino planned on attending Tuesday’s Entertainment Commission meeting to show his support for one of his favorite venues.
“I really hope they give Jelly’s another chance,” he said. “I’m sure Jelly’s has learned a lot from this as well. I’m hopeful. It would be a very big loss for the dance community in the Bay Area.”