On Wednesday, the Entertainment Commission had a hearing about the revocation of Club Suede's entertainment permits, based on the shooting that happened in front of the club in February.
I'm sorry to say, the Suede people sure make it easy to dislike them. Their lawyer, whom they only hired the night before this hearing, offered no defenses or excuses for the various tales of egregious mismanagement. If even half of what we heard in this hearing was true, this club was a disaster, tarnishing the reputation of everyone in our industry.
So I don't think anyone will shed a tear when this club goes away.
However, the Suede situation is being used as a weapon in SFPD's ongoing war to discredit the Entertainment Commission so that they can try and take back control of permitting.
This hearing resulted in a number of fine performances of political theatre to that end.
Near the beginning of the hearing, Supervisor Chiu spoke, and basically threatened that if they didn't revoke the club's permits, he'd try to disband the Entertainment Commission.
Also, before the hearing even began, Mayor Newsom held a press conference where he said that he thought the Entertainment Commission should be disbanded, and control of entertainment permits returned to SFPD.
Some facts, that many people seem to conveniently ignore when talking about this and other cases:
For the first six and a half years of the Entertainment Commission's existence, they have been unable to issue citations to clubs. The law only changed to allow them to issue citations in November 2009. Is that the fault of the Entertainment Commission, or the Board of Supervisors?
And, apparently, they still can't issue citations! They are still waiting for the City Attorney to approve the legislation and tell them the process for issuing those citations. That still hasn't happened. Is that the fault of the Entertainment Commission, or the City Attorney?
Though various SFPD officers, including Commander Dudley himself, testified to all manner of violations of Suede's permits that the officers had personally witnessed over the last several years, not a single one of them had chosen to issue a citation to the club. Is that the fault of the Entertainment Commission, or the Police Department?
From Commander Dudley's testimony:
Q: Did someone in the management of Club Suede ever receive a citation?
Dudley: Not that I recall, no.
Q: And you have authority to cite for any city violation in the city code, police code, anything, right?
Dudley: Yes, that's correct.
So, given that the EC had no authority to issue citations, and SFPD did, why did they issue no citations to the club ever?
(And yet, with all this going on at Suede, SFPD found the time and manpower to issue two bogus tickets for "blocking the sidewalk" to DNA Lounge. Can someone explain their priorities to me?)
To nobody's great surprise, the Commission voted to give Suede the highest penalty allowed by law, which it turns out is a 30 day suspension. (The way the law is currently written, they aren't allowed to give more than 30 days for a first offense; 60 days for the second; and on the third offense, 90 days or a full revocation.)
One of the awesome parts of this show was that the first member of the public to testify against Suede and ask that their permit be revoked was the General Manager of the Sheraton at Fisherman's Wharf.
This is ironic, because apparently the shooting that happened in front of Suede was actually fall-out from a hip-hop party hosted by the Sheraton! Apparently there were shots fired in front of the Sheraton, and the Sheraton security staff pepper-sprayed the crowd. At some point, the Sheraton shooters moved down to Club Suede, more shots were fired in the street outside of the club, and the SFPD Special Patrol Officer employed by Suede returned fire and killed one of the shooters. So it sure sounds to me like the Sheraton deserves more of the blame than Suede in this particular tragedy.
I don't intend to defend Suede here, because really, we're better off without them.
But let's not let SFPD off the hook for their part in this disaster. In their decade-long snit in which they have constantly attempted to discredit and undermine the Entertainment Commission, they've been playing politics with peoples' lives.
If you're interested in what the press is saying about all this (and they've said quite a lot), I posted a bunch of links on the Stop the War on Fun Facebook page, and also on the DNA Lounge press clippings page.
Finally, for some comic relief, my favorite part of the hearing was one of the public commenters. Not to belittle his complaint, but I am very amused by the poem he wrote about what it's like to live near Suede. It sounded like an excerpt from Rorschach's Journal!
Unfortunately, their embedded video doesn't play on MacOS or Linux, because apparently the San Francisco city government thinks that it is OK to require you to tithe money to Microsoft before you are able to watch video of your government in action. Like I wondered before, why don't they just upload all this crap to Youtube so that it would work on any operating system?