City to offer free permit for outdoor live music, amplified sound

San Francisco will make it easier for businesses to have outdoor live music or activities with amplified sound under a new free “JAM” permit, Mayor London Breed announced Friday.

The “Just Add Music,” or JAM permit, issued by the Entertainment Commission, will allow businesses or persons to provide live music or other amplified sound activities in outdoor areas through a simple online application process that can take 30 minutes to complete. A response is promised within two weeks.

“We are fortunate to have a diverse entertainment and nightlife culture — we can’t let COVID take that away from us,” Breed said in a statement.

The permit is for things like live music or a DJ; a theater, comedy or dance performance, a fashion show, pre-recorded music or a film screening with amplified sound.

There are a number of rules, however. Performers, for example, are not permitted to sing, shout or play wind or brass instruments as these “activities increase the risk of aerosol transmission of COVID-19,” the permit application says.

There’s a six hour per day limit for amplified sound and it’s not allowed before 9 am or after 10 pm.

The new permit bypasses the existing permit requirements that forced businesses to apply for one day permits, limited to 12 days a year, that cost hundreds of dollars, or engage in a monthslong process to apply for a permit that could also require a hearing before the Entertainment Commission.

“This program will provide some much-needed relief for businesses that are looking for ways to safely offer outdoor entertainment and music and survive the economic challenges of COVID-19,” Breed said in a statement. “We’re adapting our permitting processes to meet this moment and ensure businesses have the guidance they need to operate safely and in compliance with City rules.”

The City expects businesses to take advantage of the JAM permit who are also using the Shared Spaces program, which allows restaurants or retailers to operate in public rights-of-way like sidewalks and curbsides. The City has issued about 1,600 shared spaces permits.

The JAM permit is available for Shared Spaces permitted locations, permitted table and chair areas, business with outdoor areas like patios, rooftops and parking lots, Farmers Markets, outdoor gyms and drive-in gatherings.

Janet Clyde, owner of Vesuvio in North Beach, said she would take advantage of the new permit.

“The ‘Just Add Music’ permit will allow us to program live music in Jack Kerouac Alley without a cumbersome or expensive bureaucratic process,” Clyde said in a statement. “We look forward to working with our neighbors and the community of San Francisco musicians to make this program a success.”

Entertainment Commission President Ben Bleiman said that the permit is “a crucial step for the survival of venues, artists, and performers across the city.”

A commission survey in May of 169 entertainment and nightlife industry establishments like bars, live music venues and nightclubs found that half were highly concerned their business would close permanently due to the financial impacts of COVID-19. More than half reported losing between 75 percent and 100 percent of their expected business income.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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