Deborah Jackman, owner of Mezzanine nightclub, speaks at a news conference where Supervisor Matt Haney announced proposed protections for nightlife entertainment venues in the South of Market area at Mezzanine in the wake of nightclub’s impending closure. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Proposal brings new hope for the Mezzanine

The Mezzanine may not be forced to move out after all if District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney’s plan works.

The Mezzanine may not be forced to move out after all if District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney’s plan works.

Haney announced Thursday that has introduced temporary zoning controls that would retain the music venue’s entertainment use and also offer protections to similar South of Market establishments.

Faced with an expiring lease this October, Mezzanine’s owner and staff were told late last year that the club could see its rent increased by 600 percent. The landlords said they planned to convert the venue into office space, and negotiations to renew or extend its lease fell flat earlier this year.

“SoMa has had such a critical role for the heart of nightlife in San Francisco, especially for the LGBT community, and we see a lot of that disappearing, we see a lot of those venues under threat of closure or displacement,” said Haney, adding that there is a “public interest” in protecting such venues.

“If we wake up one day and all of these venues are gone, SoMa won’t be what it has been, San Francisco won’t be what it has been and we will lose something that will be very hard to replace,” Haney said.

Requiring approval by the Board of Supervisors, the interim controls would last for 18 months and span an area in SoMa west of 5th Street, said Haney at a press conference held at the 444 Jessie St. venue on Thursday.

The legislation will buy time for The City, the Mezzanine’s leadership and its landlords to “come to a solution,” said Haney. Mezzanine’s landlords could not be reached for comment.

The measure would require any proposed change of use at the venue and others like it to go before the San Francisco Planning Commission for review, where it is subject to appeal.

City leaders have used legislative interventions in recent months in an attempt to save a number of longtime and well-loved San Francisco businesses at risk of displacement as landlords seek more profitable tenants.

Last month, Supervisor Aaron Peskin introduced interim controls to try to save the Punch Line comedy club after repeated negotiations for a new lease with the club’s landlords had been unsuccessful.

Earlier this year, Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee did the same to prevent the displacement of a number of early childcare education programs that were under threat of losing their buildings due to expiring leases.

The announcement provided some relief to Mezzanine’s staff, many of whom feared that they would lose their jobs and footing in San Francisco.

“This is my dream job, basically,” said Mezzanine Talent Buyer Erin Maher, who added she was “crushed” upon hearing about the landlords’ refusal to renew Mezzanine’s lease.

“I had finally gotten here, the staff is so amazing, to have most upper management and those who run this venue be women, it’s such an amazing place to be,” said Maher. “When I was told, I was sobbing out on Market Street.”

Chris Sanders, Mezzanine’s marketing director, said that he hopes to see “The City really get behind keeping spaces like ours here.”

Sanders pointed to the Hemlock Tavern in the Tenderloin, a long time music venue that was recently demolished to make way for new development.

“As creative spaces that are the reason people want to live in San Francisco disappear, this city becomes kind of stagnant,” said Sanders. “I understand the property owner’s rights to make money off the property they have, no one is against that, but this whole process we have been left out of the loop. They’ve tried to ghost us.”

Mezzanine owner Deborah Jackman said that she is hopeful that the threat of legislative action will help her get back “to the table” with the owners of the building and the concert production company Another Planet Entertainment as the venue’s partner to “keep Mezzanine for the long term.”

“The landlords now want to give us our three-and-a-half month extension, so hopefully we will be signing that lease today,” said Jackman.

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.com

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