Commission may get the right to shut clubs down

Troublesome nightclubs could be shuttered within hours under legislation that is headed toward a final vote within weeks.

Amidst mixed reviews from community members and those in the industry, legislation granting more power to the Entertainment Commission was approved Monday by the Board of Supervisors City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee.

The proposal is meant to enable the commission to crack down on troubled nightclubs blamed for violence in neighborhoods such as North Beach, SoMa and the Mission, which have the highest concentrations of the party stops.

The legislation provides the Entertainment Commission “with the power to cite, to regulate and to shut down” the “few bad clubs,” Board of Supervisors President David Chiu said.

The commission would have the ability to temporarily suspend the permits of clubs in a matter of hours under certain conditions, including a club’s failure to follow the security plan. The commission’s executive director could suspend a permit for 72 hours — after giving the club owner an eight-hour notice — if there are concerns about public safety.

The proposal also establishes a clear process for the commission to grant one-time and permanent extended-hour permits — to allow businesses to operate past 2 a.m. — with built-in controls to limit how many are issued.

“There is some give and take on this legislation,” said Supervisor Bevan Dufty, the committee chair. “We will see some good things happen.”

During the hearing, some community members faulted The City for not doing enough and some in the industry worried The City is going too far in its restrictions, threatening San Francisco’s vibrant nightlife.

The Entertainment Commission also came under attack with arguments about whether it should even exist.

The debate sounds far from over.

“I don’t think this is the final reform,” Chiu said. “Can the Entertainment Commission adequately regulate the bad apples of its industry? If there are no improvements I will look into broader reform.”

Chiu said he plans to introduce legislation today that would create regular hearings at the board’s Public Safety Committee to assess whether the commission is having success, disclose statistics about violence associated with the clubs and hear updates about the handling of club complaints.

The full board is expected to vote a week from Tuesday on the legislation.
jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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