I guess I can assume that we're going to be getting one of these tickets every week from now on. The last time, Barry wasted at least 6 hours standing in line to find out that the ticket was "invalid". Forcing my managers to waste a day a week standing around at the Hall of Justice is going to prove to be very expensive very quickly, even if these tickets don't end up costing a fine as well.
Here's how Saturday night went:
At around 11pm, the notorious Officer Bertrand pulled up in front of DNA in an unmarked car (continuing to make good on his threat that we'd be "seeing a lot more of him"). He barked that we needed "to do something about the sidewalk", then drove his car across the street to Butter, which apparently got shut down for capacity issues. (Accomplishing this apparently took four squad cars, plus the unmarked Bertrand/Ott car. Butter is not a big place.)
At 11:30pm, Sgt. Mannix arrived and began yelling at our back-door security to "have the line cleared off the sidewalk".
At the time, we had an orderly double-file line up against the wall running down to the corner. The sidewalk was not even remotely blocked: there was five or six feet of open space between the line and the curb. Nevertheless, Mannix screamed that if the line wasn't dispersed immediately, we were getting a citation, and our customers were going to be cited for "loitering".
After rooting around in the police car trunk and pulling out what looked like riot gear, Mannix videotaped our line for a few minutes, then said, "this isn't working", and ordered another officer to write us a ticket. This order was given with obvious glee. The elapsed time between being ordered to turn away our customers and getting the ticket was thirteen minutes. During that time, we had cleared away sixty feet of the line, in a calm, safe and orderly manner, but apparently that wasn't fast enough for SF's screaming finest.
I emphasize that it was still before midnight, on a Saturday.
The officer who actually wrote the ticket made a point of saying that he was sorry that he had been ordered to write it, and that in the five years that this had been his beat, we'd always kept very good control of our events, and that our staff had been helpful to the police on many occasions.
Later, it got even crazier: at 1:55am, a number of cops on foot, plus 6 marked and at least 2 unmarked police cars converged on Mist, across the street. An unmarked vehicle closed off the northbound side of 11th Street, and the police began herding people down the block. There were no apparent arrests, just a big, unnecessary show of force. We kept our customers inside until the gang of police dispersed at 2:05am.
DNA's staff are unaware of any triggering incident. Mist had a thuggy crowd, but there didn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary about them.
I guess we can expect to see these gestapo tactics every weekend as well, since SFPD seem to feel that that approach worked so great for them when they "cleaned up" North Beach.
As you may recall, their approach in North Beach was to block off the streets every night so that even the taxis couldn't reach the clubs to pick up customers. Their assumption seems to have been that if you make going to a club feel like walking through a war zone, then the customers will stop coming and the clubs will go out of business. It turns out that this is true, and Sgt. (now Commander) Dudley got a promotion out of this tactic.
Why isn't Mayor Newsom doing or saying anything about this? Now that he's no longer running for Governor, it's about time for him to stop being an absentee landlord and do something about the fact that his wildly out-of-control police department is trying to systematically destroy the city's nightlife and tourism industry. Perhaps you should write him and ask.
This is some serious bullshit, people.
I wonder how often other businesses get ticketed for their customers blocking the sidewalk. For example, Macy's, Whole Foods, Bi-Rite Creamery, the Apple Store, Caltrain, the Westfield Mall, or the Powell cable car turnaround.
In fact, would you like to help out? Send me some videos of "blocked sidewalks" around town in front of "reputable" businesses during the day.
Why don't these places get cited? I'll tell you why: because SFPD does not have an anti-groceries agenda like they have an anti-nightlife agenda, so they enforce their ridiculously-rigid (and incorrect) interpretation of the laws only against those businesses that they are trying to destroy.