It’s a positive sign that the “Broadway Mega Block Party” scheduled for May 29 has been canceled in response to growing public concern. Central Police Station and the North Beach Chamber of Commerce had been getting the heebie-jeebies over the prospect of bigger-than-usual crowds of unruly drunks overrunning Broadway’s nightclub strip on a Saturday night.
The Mega Block Party format sells wristbands for full access to at least eight participating North Beach clubs, which is guaranteed to keep bar hoppers moving back and forth along the street. In fairness to promoter Edgar Cruz, his Papa Entertainment has held prior Broadway block parties as recently as January, with few major security problems.
But that was before February, when the North Beach-Fisherman’s Wharf area emerged as something of a late-night free fire zone. On Feb. 19, a car fleeing a Broadway strip club shooting fatally ran down pedestrian Luis Prieto, 21. Even more notoriously, four people were shot and one died Feb. 7 outside Suede nightclub on Fisherman’s Wharf. San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit this month trying to shut down the Suede permanently.
When the Mega Block Party began attracting media attention, what was most surprising, and troubling, about it was that such a large-scale event didn’t even require a specific permit. San Francisco has no direct power to regulate a promoter who organizes events taking place inside already-licensed entertainment venues.
Police and the Entertainment Commission had little recourse except to press the participating Broadway nightclubs to help pick up costs of additional officers for the Mega Block Party. With The City struggling to close yet another crippling deficit, it was unclear how many extra officers the SFPD could afford to deploy for the event.
While The Examiner is on record as consistently backing well-organized efforts to keep community fun in San Francisco, we expect such events to have reasonable public safety oversight. The City needs to close the loophole allowing any self-styled promoter to market a large-scale affair without guaranteeing to pay the costs of overtime police security.
The way it works now, authority over violence prevention involving live entertainment venues is divided among multiple agencies — primarily the police and the Entertainment Commission. Too many gray areas make effective enforcement problematic. It’s time for this to change.
What San Francisco needs is a cohesive entertainment venue policy that can crack down on proven troublemakers such as Suede nightclub, but does not interfere with the legitimate operations of responsible club owners and event promoters.