[Story updated 3/8/12]
The alcohol permit for S.F. music venue Slim's was suspended for 10 days last week due to a long-running battle with the club's neighbors over noise complaints -- a battle venue part-owner Dawn Holliday hopes will end soon.
The club was barred from serving alcohol from Tuesday, March 15, until this Friday, when it will host a show by Irish group the Saw Doctors.
Over the weekend, the club held booze-free performances of bands from middle and high schools, storing away all the alcohol it would normally have made money serving.
The license suspension relates to a spat between Slim's and the club's neighbors, who began complaining in 2007 that the venue was violating the no-noise policy of its liquor license. Though the complaints originated with Juniper Street residents Jodi and Kirby Watson, Holliday says a neighbor in their building, Jeanmarie Guenot, calls police regularly, sometimes daily, to complain about noise from the club.
To correct any mistaken impressions made by the official suspension sign posted on the club's door, Slim's owners put another sign above it last week explaining their side of the story, and giving Guenot's name and address.
The suspension came during a relatively calm week for Slim's. A Tuesday show by British anarcho-punks Crass had already been postponed due to visa issues, and another previously scheduled show was canceled for other reasons. Holliday says the underage shows helped fill the place on Saturday and Sunday.
The conditions of Slim's liquor license have made it vulnerable to noise complaints. When seeking a permit for the club before its opening in 1988, Holliday agreed to terms that no noise would be heard beyond the club's doors, a common condition at the time. "There was nobody down here then," she says. Since 1999, after spending more than $100,000 on sound insulation, Slim's noise levels have been measured by officials from the San Francisco Entertainment Commission, and found to be in accordance with the city's noise ordinance, Holliday says.
That hasn't stopped the complaints to police. Holliday says she has spent more than $250,000 on legal fees answering charges from her neighbors that the club is too loud. "The outcome of this long siege has been that we did need to take the closure, the punishment," Holliday says.
But the club owner is cautiously optimistic about the future: Holliday says officials from the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control board have told her they now plan to use the city's noise ordinance as a metric to evaluate Slim's. And since the club has met those requirements, Holliday hopes future complaints from Guenot and other neighbors won't have the same effect.
In the meantime, Holliday looks forward to being able to resume normal shows again starting Friday. "We were really, really hurt by [the closure]," Holliday says. "Middle-school kids don't exactly eat enough french fries to make up for real shows."