Nighttime crowds spur more police for North Beach patrol

At least 7,000 people flood Broadway Street in North Beach every Friday and Saturday night, hitting clubs, restaurants and strip clubs, causing problems police and business owners say are becoming unmanageable.

More police officers have been patrolling the street throughout the summer and their numbers will increase this weekend.

A crackdown on street violations as well as handing out citations for such violations as expired license plates and broken taillights, is expected to help the overcrowding that has led to fights, some petty crimes, public drunkenness and urination — behavior neighbors and business owners say are ruining the reputation of one of The City’s most famous neighborhoods.

In April, law enforcement began conducting random checks of nightclubs on Friday and Saturday nights looking for overcrowding, illegal noise levels, liquor law violations and other offenses.

“We’ve already put out a significant representation from the Police Department [but] it’s difficult to manage as an enforcement issue only,” police Capt. James Dudley said.

Business owners, police officers and neighbors say the problems escalate at 2 a.m. when restaurants, clubs and bars are legally required to shut down. Dudley said the mix of large crowds in a small space with short tempers and alcohol often leads to fights and verbal confrontations. According to the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, there are 15 establishments holding liquor licenses that can serve 2,600 customers within a 250-feet stretch on the Broadway corridor.

But policing the neighborhood has grown increasingly difficult, according to Dudley, because officers are expected to enforce traffic laws on the crowded streets, be on the lookout for drunks and manage the large amount of pedestrians at the same time. Club owners are being asked to help officers by managing the large crowds hanging out in front of their buildings and to control the lines of people trying to get in.

Terrance Alan, a nightclub owner and the chairman of the San Francisco Late Night Coalition, said the problem has gotten worse recently because of a crackdown on nightclubs in Oakland, San Jose and Alameda that has forced people to come to The City. The clubs can hold about 7,000 people, according to Alan, but he said there are large numbers of people who hang out in the streets and never enter a club or restaurant.

Jim Lew, president of the North Beach Neighbors Association, said he does not feel the Broadway corridor has gotten any worse than it has been in the past.

“There has always been trouble on Broadway with all the traffic,” he said. “[But], I don’t think it’s all that unsafe.”

sfarooq@examiner.com

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