17-Jan-2010 (Sun)
Wherein a New Year's Eve tale of police harassment is told.

How was your New Year's Eve? Let me tell you about ours.

As you know, the various nightclubs around town have been getting quite a bit of unwanted attention these days. Beyond the ABC issues DNA has been fighting for the past two-plus years (wow, it really has been going on that long!) many other local clubs have been being harassed by ABC and SFPD recently. It was obvious that those on the wrong side of the War on Fun would be engaging in something of a crackdown on New Year's Eve.

To prepare for this, we went out of our way to try and keep people away on NYE. We sold pre-sale tickets only, and we sold them for a higher price than usual. We figured that the price would scare people off, and the "pre-sale only" would mean that we wouldn't have a huge line of people out front hoping to get in. Our thinking was that it was probably better to have fewer people than to have the cops find some trumped-up reason to make us shut down early, or turn people away. I'm not sure that was the right trade-off to make, but it's what we did.

At around 12:45 AM, Officers Bertrand and Ott pulled up in front of the club. You remember Officer Bertrand, back in November I posted some excerpts from the SF Bay Guardian and SF Weekly articles about SFPD seizing laptops when shutting down private house parties.

(The fact that I posted quotes from the newspaper articles about him resulted in Bertrand introducing himself to the DNA Lounge front door staff by saying, "I'm the one your boss keeps writing about. You'll be seeing a lot more of me." I wonder if he dropped by the Guardian and Weekly offices to make the same introduction. I'm guessing not.)

Anyway, Bertrand is SFPD and Ott is ABC. They say that they are the "nightclub detail" for Captain McDonough of Southern Station. These folks are a part of the hardline anti-nightlife contingent led by Commander Dudley. I've written about Dudley a couple of times before. Dudley is, you will recall, the guy who made the outrageous claim that any possible economic benefit brought to San Francisco by having nightclubs at all is outweighed by the cost of policing them.

So, Bertrand and Ott showed up at DNA a bit after midnight, stood around for a while glaring at people, and after some time, approached our staff and began barking at them to keep the street and sidewalk clear.

Now, at this point, there were maybe 30 people outside, either standing around smoking, or trying to hail taxis. This is not what you would call a big crowd on any random weeknight, let alone New Year's Eve. In fact, your reaction to this probably would have been, "You're joking, right?" Nevertheless, our staff started corralling the people, asking them to stand against the wall while smoking and to stand on the curb while hailing cabs.

Barry was the manager that night, and a few minutes later Bertrand asked for his ID so that he could write him a ticket! Barry asked what it was for, and Bertrand said he was "being cited under section 1060.1 MPC, violating the Good Neighbor Policy". Barry asked for clarification and Bertrand stared at the ground, sighed, and then said, "You need to keep the sidewalk clear." You may notice that that's not technically an answer to the question, so we still don't really know what this citation is for, but Barry has a date in court on Feb 2 to find out.

It was pretty clear to everyone who was there that they had decided to cite us for something even before they got out of the car, so I guess this was the best they could come up with. This is relatively minor compared to the kind of abuse that Bertrand and Ott have been heaping on to other venues in town recently, so I guess we were "lucky"? At least they didn't physically assault anyone.

So, in summary: we intentionally shot ourself in the foot financially on New Year's Eve solely to stay off the cops' radar that night; and we got a court date out of it anyway.

Good times.

12 Responses:

  1. artkiver says:

    East bay is getting in on the war on fun too:

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article/article?f=/c/a/2010/01/16/BAAO1BJ04A.DTL

    And OPD shut down a party at the bordello last weekend and stated that they were on their "watchlist" because when venues are getting harassed and shut down, and people move to private events, well we can't have that either! grrr.

  2. greyface says:

    So, 1060.1 is the criminal (as opposed to ABC penalty) version of "You're violating the terms of your permit." Right?

    Presumably, since the number of witnesses is copious, they'll have to come up with something that ACTUALLY happened? Can that ticket be valid for blocking the sidewalk before the officer asked your staff to clear it? Is that ticketable the second it happens? Only following a complaint or officer's instruction?

    • bluknight says:

      The way I read 1060.1, it appears the more appropriate accusation is "you're operating without a permit." And since we have established that jwz is pretty much manic about trying to do things above-board, I for one would really like to know what permit he's operating without.

      Oh, wait a minute, I already know the answer. He didn't acquire a "make money through business" permit. Of course, he'd tell you that didn't apply because the nightclub business doesn't make money. However, don't tell the war on fun that...

      • greyface says:

        Since 1060.1 requires a permit, I assume that doing things not allowed by the permit is a violation. In a broader strokes example, if you apply for a permit to assemble in the streets on the 16th, from 8am-5pm, and people are on the streets on the 17th at 4am, you can't say, "We had a permit for yesterday," and expect it to get you anywhere.

        Back towards the point, if your permit REQUIRES you to do things (keep the sidewalks clear, keep noise down, etc) failing to do those things means you're doing things NOT COVERED by your permit.

        But I'm not a lawyer, much less an entertainment lawyer. So, I am talking purely from the same place I fart out of.

  3. spoonyfork says:

    If you haven't already I recommend filing a harrasment complaint against the officier in question. They add up and affect compensation as well as bring more attention to you. :)

  4. klarfax says:

    I hope all of your customers know about these problems--have you handed out flyers, etc.?

  5. sheilagh says:

    Do y'all have security cameras that would show the sparse population on the sidewalks that night?

  6. dasht says:

    The officer said "being cited under section 1060.1 MPC, violating the Good Neighbor Policy". The "Good Neighbor Policy" is an Entertainment Commission regulation, not ordinance, and has no applicability to 1060.1 unless you lack a permit.

    It sounds like a citation for "here's what I think of you and your Entertainment Commission buddies".

    • phoenixredux says:

      I always thought the Good Neighbor Policy was what I got from my State Farm agent. This sounds more like getting the shaft.

      • strspn says:

        Thank you for your request for "insurance." Sadly, our popular Good Neighbor Policies were recently replaced by "What Do You Expect Me to Do with This Flood Insurance Premium Because All Our Actuaries Were Fired by Hedge Fund Managers Betting against Themselves in Bed with OPEC" policies, which precipitated the AIG, counterparty, and sub-prime mortgage crises, resulting in asset price collapse and the elimination of public transportation and bike lanes in your area. We look forward to your continued patronage after the coming plagues.

  7. mc_kingfish says:

    Crap like this requires sunlight to disinfect it. It may be too far in the past I dunno, but I sent this off to writers at the SFBG, the SFWeekly & The Chronicle. This whole story is just plain ugly.

    • strspn says:

      I have a feeling lawyers ask for an embargo on this stuff. I'm not sure it would help. I think Nature would be a lot more respectable if they didn't insist on an embargo.