Friday, February 29, 2008

My Email to Bevan Dufty Opposing the Nightclub Legislation

Just sent this to Bevan Dufty, my supervisor for District 8. This legislation will be proposed on Tuesday, so if you want to oppose it, go to the Board of Supervisor's meeting or send your supervisor an email NOW!


Supervisor Dufty,

I am writing to you as a constituent, an independent club promoter, nightlife journalist, and active member of San Francisco’s nightlife culture to urge you to oppose the nightclub legislation that Sophie Maxwell will introduce during Tuesday’s board of supervisors meeting. This legislation will do nothing to address the real issues of violent crime, and will instead make club owners and promoters bear the burden of enforcing absurd and onerous rules.

First, the proposal to make it illegal to loiter within ten feet of a club for more than 180 seconds is absurd on the face of the proposal itself. While the exceptions for cigarette smoking and hailing a cab recognize at least two situations where it would be ridiculous to enforce this law, one has to wonder about all the other situations in which law-abiding club-goers would be subject to harassment. Would it be illegal for me to have a conversation with someone outside a club if they were smoking a cigarette and I wasn’t? I know you have been to Drunk and Horny on Saturday night at UndergroudSF; what about the situation where, at 2AM, the club closes and guys are standing on the sidewalk before they leave? Finally, who would enforce this law? Would we expect the police to stand outside clubs with stopwatches, timing everyone? Would it be up the club security, who would then have to call the police? This legislation cannot be enforced, and in situations where it was, it would amount to little more than subjective harassment. If the issue is about non-clubgoers laying in wait outside clubs, selling drugs, or breaking into cars, then the solution is have increased police foot patrols outside clubs to watch for dangerous behavior, rather than making everyone standing outside into a potential criminal.

Second, the proposal to require anyone who does more than two events per year in city to obtain a permit would also place undue burden on independent promoters and lead once again to problems of enforcement. This city’s nightlife is built on small promoters like myself, who rarely make any profit form our events, putting forth proposals to bar and club owners who have already gone through a permitting process to have events. Do you really think it would help with issues of violent crime to force promoters like myself, Juanita More, Bus Station John, Comfort and Joy, Jeff and Gary, and Honey Sound System, to name just a few who are active in the gay community, to have permits to throw events? The real effect of enacting this legislation would be chilling on the entrepreneurial spirit, and the love of nightlife culture, that these promoters bring to our city. Again, this would do nothing to curb the problems that the Mayor seems to want to address, since he already acknowledges that it is the “fly-by-night” promoters who do random events that are the source of issues, rather than those who have established themselves in the community. Further, the end goal seems to be to make promoters responsible to the police for any action undertaken by someone at their club. I cannot control what the patrons of my club nights do; I cannot stop them from drinking too much or starting fights, aside from having them thrown out when I see them becoming a problem. How is it, then, that I can be held responsible for a “security breach or health violation,” which is plainly the responsibility of the club owner? Finally, how would this permitting process be enforced? Would we expect promoters to present their permits to club owners before they were allowed to do events? Or would the police come to events on the second night and demand to see the permits? In either case, it seems that that this legislation would require club and bar owners to enforce it, or require the dedication of police resources that could be otherwise put to better use.

I feel that this legislation is being proposed to address a non-existent problem; in all my years of activity in the San Francisco club scene, I have seen exactly one violent incident. The statistics listed in the Chronicle article are, in the face of other violent crime in the city, insignificant, and there is no evidence that this legislation would address the causes of the violent acts described. If the problem is that 15% of violent assaults occur within or around clubs, and if the majority of those crimes are committed around closing time, as a police spokesman stated in a previous Chronicle article on this topic, then the solution is simple: increase police foot patrols around clubs, especially between 1.30 and 2.30 AM. The solution should require the police to do their job, rather than setting up situations for subjective harassment of club patrons and promoters, and requiring clubs and promoters to do the job that the police should be doing in the first place.


Phil Gochenour
Promoter, FSLD, Deco Lounge
Founder, SFScene blog (
San Francisco Correspondent,

1 comment:

Vanguard said...

Here's an example of what's happened to SF nightlife. The Sound Factory is now the sales/marketing center for high rise condos: