Following pressure from comedy superstars and City Hall officials, tech giant Google on Wednesday said that rather than displacing the iconic Punch Line Comedy Club it now plans to join the fight to save it.
The lease for the Punch Line, which has been at 444 Battery St. for more than 40 years, is set to expire in August. The owner has been unwilling to negotiate a lease extension, and its supporters have identified Google’s move to lease parts of the building as a reason.
In an effort to protect the club, comedians including Dave Chappelle and W. Kamau Bell joined Supervisor Aaron Peskin for a rally on the steps of City Hall Tuesday to announce interim zoning controls that would retain an entertainment use for the property.
Chappelle likened losing the Punch Line to “burning down the Louvre.”
However in an email to the San Francisco Examiner on Wednesday, a spokesperson for Google said the company recognizes the Punch Line as “a key part of San Francisco’s culture and community for 40 years.” The spokesperson confirmed that the company “has leased the space next door to the Punch Line” and is looking “forward to being their neighbor.”
“As a neighbor, Google is committed to trying to find a way for the Punch Line to remain a vibrant part of the Bay Area community for years to come,” said the spokesperson, who added that the company “is absolutely open to participating in conversations with City officials and the community regarding the preservation of Punch Line.”
Live Nation Entertainment, which owns the Punch Line, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday on whether the company had been contacted by Google. Morgan Stanley, which owns the building that houses the Punch Line and Google, did not respond to a request for comment.
However, Peskin told the San Francisco Examiner that he spoke with Google’s head of real estate Wednesday morning. He called the conversation “very productive” and said that he is “more than cautiously optimistic that this will all work out.”
“The Punch Line will continue for the foreseeable future. We are not there yet,” said Peskin, who added that he plans to push the proposed interim zoning controls forward.
“The clock is ticking on the Punch Line’s future, so I am pushing forward with my Punch Line Preservation legislation,” said Peskin, adding that the legislation will move before the board of supervisors’ Land Use Committee on June 3 and has won co-sponsorship by “every member of the Board of Supervisors, which I think showcases the breadth of support we have to keep this community intact.”
It is unclear how Google plans to help — but Peskin said he’d rather “win than fight.”