Party’s Over, San Francisco

Just in time for spring, the SFPD wants you to know the party’s over.

My friend Mike owns an underground party venue, and last night the cops raided a no-alcohol event at his place with 20 officers.  They told him that a new police task force is taking to the streets with military-style tactics to stop non-licensed parties.  What Mike didn’t know is that, as the Chronicle reported today, this is part of a larger effort by the cops to reign in all party spaces – licensed or not.

SFPD says that a shooting last weekend at 3rd and Folsom prompted the creation of this new task force.  And yet their own homicide investigators admitted that the shooting had nothing to do with a nightclub.   It seems as though they are looking for any excuse to raid nightclubs and parties.

And ironically, the police are making the violence worse.  An April 12 shooting in front of the club Whisper happened only after the police had cleared the club, leaving the crowd outside confused and itching for a fight.  I’ve also heard of rowdy partygoers being beaten by police in front of these clubs, and then later charged with “resisting arrest” and “assaulting an officer” only for these charges to be later dropped.

The struggle of underground venues has been going on for a while.  Another friend owns a space in SOMA that has been dogged for years by the authorities.  His space holds several hundred people, but it’s not licensed because the configuration of the building prevents him from having enough fire escapes to accommodate the City’s strict fire code. Now that the City is cracking down, he has stopped holding all but the smallest of events.

Now I’m not going to defend unsafe spaces.  If there were a fire in any venue, I’d want there to be adequate exits and fire sprinklers.

But what’s interesting to me is the timing of this crackdown.  For years, the authorities have looked the other way since the underground clubs didn’t seem to cause any problems. But not any more.  Suddenly, the War on Partying has gained momentum.

As my readers know, the organizers of Bay to Breakers are cracking down on partying, and we’re still not sure how the new rules are going to play out.   The organizers of the How Weird Street Faire are struggling against the SFPD to keep that fun and funky festival alive.  How Weird is being charged an unprecedented $10,000 for police protection, which is vastly more than what they’ve been charged before.  And, I might add,  How Weird has never had violence problems in its past.

The SFPD came close to shutting down the Bring Your Own Big Wheel event earlier this month, until the Mayor’s Office stepped in to cut a deal with the event organizers and the cops, keeping this Only In San Francisco event around to live another day.   Even Deep Jawa‘s tame and silly-fun Flashdance parties are being cut short by the fuzz.

But wait! There’s more.  As if they smelled blood in the water, the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control has jumped into the fight.  According to the Chronicle, ABC is cracking down on all-ages music venues for minor violations, such as not serving enough food.   What the?! Now that’s just gratuitous.  When does it end?

Rumors abound as to why this is happening now.  Is it something about the economy? Are the cops manufacturing a problem to help justify their already bloated overtime budget?  Is the City trying to slit the throats of those who are competing with tax-paying clubs?  Is Captain Tacchini of the Mission Station gunning to replace Heather Fong as Police Chief? Is Fong looking to cement her legacy in these last few months of her tenure? Are a few bad apples causing the cops to overreact, going on an anti-fun rampage?

I don’t know the answer, but this trend is really disturbing.  Surely there’s a way to keep these businesses and events operating in a way that is safe and fun.  Without the wide variety of nightlife options, the spontaneity of harmless parties like Flashdance, and the wackiness of events like Bring Your Own Big Wheel, San Francisco just won’t be the same.

10 thoughts on “Party’s Over, San Francisco

  1. yep. they have been busting parties left and right. this really blows. I really dont what this city is turning into. It is really sad. How can we fight this though?

  2. What if a few promoters/responsible people from the scene tried to represent us, and work with the police instead of relying on all the speculation and what not? Could be a worth a shot…

    I’m not an influential promoter in the scene, but I’d be willing to help out

  3. City Hall needs to wise up and get a grip and realize that not only do these events bring in much needed income and patronage to this city from points outside, but that the locals themselves who throw and attend these events are the cultural lifeblood of San Francisco, and often the cream of the crop as far as expendable income, cultural relevance and activity in the city.

    Whether it’s a quiet art show, a fashion show or the rowdiest of dance parties I meet the most amazingly diverse array of people at these parties. In no order of importance, I meet scientists and engineers. Doctors. Lawyers. Computer programmers. Artists. Musicians. Dancers. Writers. Poets.

    And even just as worthy and valuable – I meet mechanics, construction workers, painters and other such labor intensive professions. Cooks and chefs. Housecleaners and caregivers.

    And these people come in all shapes and sizes and colors, black or white, gay or straight or other.

    Killing off this creative cultural mixing pot and vibrant night life will kill SF. Is that what you want, SF City Hall? You want a perfectly clean, sanctified, quiet, boring city? No more great art? No more poetry? No more music?

    Because you’re not currently actually playing it safe. You’re you’re actually playing at is the dangerous Dark Ages art of bloodletting. You’re bleeding San Francisco.

    These cultural events should be cared for and incubated as the valuable natural resources they are. They are what make this city a destination and a world class city. It’s not the buildings, it’s not the streets, it’s not the transport and it’s not the burritos – it’s the people that make this city great. It’s the interesting people doing interesting things.

    And more often than not, these people aren’t doing these interesting things to make money. Except for the swanky (and boring!) upper-crust lounges and nightclubs, very, very few of these venues, events or artists even manage to break even. Many of them lose money, time and valuable energy struggling to bring us these events.

    Why? Because they truly love what they do and they love that others love it too. That’s reward enough, to build and bring something into the world to enjoy with friends old and new.

    Get a grip, SFPD. Put whatever misguided hurt feeling you have aside and get back to protecting us from real crime so we can get on with making real art and music and cooking real food, so we can get on with having a real life that’s fulfilling to our creative spirits.

    Because otherwise? Otherwise we’ll be gone. And you’ll wonder what the hell happened to your city, and why it’s suddenly turned into a boring cultural wasteland like suburban Los Angeles.

  4. Well said, Alix and the commenters. This is about the soul of this city and I’m glad that we’re taking this seriously and talking about how to fight back. Keep up the good work.

  5. I used to have one of those so called “UNDERGROUND PARTY VENUES” and the cops came to my place, bit me up because I didn’t open the door for them to come in and shut down my party, forced their way in and closed my prefectly legal gathering. They lie about how many people I had so then can shut me down. I wasn’t even charging for anything.
    WHERE IS OUR “Bill of Rights “!!!!
    “”1.Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances ”
    It’s our right to peaceably assemble and the cops in the city are taking that awya from us.

  6. You mentioned knowing DA Kemala-babe… are her political aspirations (as well as Gavin-boy’s) causing the fuzz to get their nap up? It seems odd that the POA would give a rats ass about helping either one.

    Of course, the cops (almost none of whom live here) want to turn SF into a cultural desert, cultural deserts are populated by the placid and sheeplike homo flaccidus, much easier to police, not nearly as threatening to the cop testicles. I mean, look at the loverly burgs where they stash their women and offspring (Danville, Livermore, Tracy, Fairfield, yoj name it, they got more SFPD than we do), a boring, conformist, safe police-controlled nursery school playground.

    The name of the game is testosterone. Wimmen threaten their testosterone (that’s why they hate Heather Fong), homos like me threaten their testosterone, artists threaten their testosterone, people thinking they can live without them threaten their testosterone.

    The very nature of SF, and our national reputation, cause the cops to feel inadequate, because in the context of police states, the cops aren’t supposed to let stuff like SF happen. The fact that it does makes them the objects of ridicule when they go to those Las Vegas cop conventions. They come back itching to bust heads to prove to the rest of America’s gun-totin’ crowd that they’re real men too!

    But enough about them, and more about you. I just stumbled into your blog and like it a lot. Keep writing and keep the underground info channel flowing. If I’d known more about you, I would have voted for you instead of whoever else I picked to be “not-Dufty”. D8 needs people like you!

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