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Controversial nightclub suspended

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The beleaguered commission in charge of nightclubs in The City said it does not have the power to shut down a club that was the site of a deadly shootout.

Instead, the commission suspended Suede Nightclub and Lounge’s license for 30 days — the most punitive measure it can, by law, take. The suspension begins April 5. The club has been closed voluntarily since the Feb. 7 incident.

Suede, located near Fisherman’s Wharf on Bay Street near Mason Street, was the site of a shooting that left one person dead and four others injured. A several-hour hearing Wednesday enumerated at least five other instances in which violence had erupted at the club.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu counted among many calling for the shutdown of the club. He also chided the commission for not acting sooner, noting it had been notified on 10 occasions in the last year and a half about the club’s violations.

“And this commission did nothing,” he said.

Mayor Gavin Newsom also was among the people who, prior to the meeting, called for the commission to shut down the club.

“Enough is enough,” Newsom said. “I want to put an end to this. This is taking a lot of time, this one club. People are spending a lot of energy to shut it down and it shouldn’t be this hard.”

But Entertainment Commissioner Jim Meko said the group’s hands were tied.

“I’m sorry that all we can consider in this case is a 30-day suspension, but that’s just the way the code works,” he said.

February’s incident was not the first time shots had been fired outside Suede. In August 2008, people in a crowd that had gathered to see Atlanta-based rapper Young Jeezy became angry when asked to disperse, and shots were fired indiscriminately at cars parked at a nearby lot.

Deputy city attorneys Jennifer Choi and Jill Cannon enumerated several other instances when a lack of trained security staff contributed to violent situations.

Club owner Hanson Wong’s attorney Arthur Lipton, who said he had only been retained in the last day, admitted the club had made major mistakes but said it had also been made a scapegoat — as had the Entertainment Commission, he said.



Newsom wants changes or panel could be shut down

Mayor Gavin Newsom and other city officials are moving to either strip the Entertainment Commission of power or disband it altogether.

Newsom, who supported the creation of the commission when he was on the Board of Supervisors, said the government body, which regulates and promotes entertainment in The City, adds no real value.

In fact, it seems to do more harm than help, as evidenced by the frustrations and delays in closing down Suede, Newsom said.

“It just gets in the way of The City doing its job,” Newsom said.

But it would take voters’ approval to dismantle the chartered commission, a campaign that the mayor is not willing to take on himself. Newsom said he met with Board of Supervisors President David Chiu this week to talk about ways the board could reform or end the commission.

Chiu, whose supervisor district includes the area in which Suede is located, said he would like to consider keeping the commission as a promoter of entertainment and take away its authority to regulate the industry.

— Erin Sherbert

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