The Commission's critics say it's dominated by nightclub interests and fails to protect the public. In its first six years of operation,
it issued only four temporary suspensions of problem venues. At at one
point, five of the seven commissioners had direct financial ties to the
During the hearing last night, lawyers
for the city had little trouble demonstrating a pattern of
mismanagement at Suede, as police officers and a sound inspector for
the Entertainment Commission testified to a pattern of overcrowded
parties at the Fisherman's Wharf club spillling out into the streets and becoming rowdy and
violent -- and the repeated inability of Suede's security staff to keep
the situation under control.
"In a list of problem clubs in the city, I would say Suede would be
among the top five," said Vajra Granelli, the commission's sound
Granelli said, security staff told him they weren't sure how many
people were inside the club because they had lost the clicker they were
using to count patrons when a fight broke out earlier that evening. When a female
patron was being assaulted in the club's lobby by two other patrons,
Suede's security did not attempt to help her, but simply pushed the
combatants outside onto the street, Granelli said. A police officer
from Central Station testified that he watched a drunk
Suede patron put his fist through the window of a nearby sushi
restaurant. Police officers from Central Station said Suede was at the
top of their list of clubs that needed monitoring and frequent police
assistance. The night before the Feb. 7 shooting, police donned riot gear to respond to a crowd outside Suede.
it wasn't really the charges against Suede that were at issue last
night, but the question of why it took a homicide in front of the
nightclub before Suede faced any serious consequences for its
At the close of the hearing, Entertainment
Commissioners Jim Meko and Terrance Alan blamed the police code, which
mandates that the Entertainment Commission can only suspend a club's
permit for 30 days for a first offense, and then mandates further
suspensions of 60 and 90 days for second and third offenses with a
period of six months.
Meko and Alan have both been on the
Commission since its founding, and Alan was instrumental in the
advocacy that lead to the Commission's creation in 2003.
said "the most egregious fault" lay in the legal process that governs
how the Entertainment Commission regulates clubs, and he called for
"legislative remedy" of the problem.
But police commander James Dudley, the former captain of Central Station, told SF Weekly that
the problem was the Entertainment Commission's failure to discipline
Suede for the earlier offenses described in the hearing.
"This should be strike five, not strike one," he said.
Arthur C. Lipton,
the attorney for Hanson Wong, owner of Club Suede, said repeatedly
during the hearing that his client had been willing to accept most of
the city's charges against him and that Suede was very willing to
accept the suspension. His major defense of Suede was that it had never
been issued a citation by the police, despite the police's testimony
about the club's many problems. "The police really didn't act except to
come and say, try harder," Lipton told SF Weekly after the hearing.
"Not only is Club Suede being used as a scapegoat, so is this commission," Lipton said in his closing statement.
the owner of Suede, declined to comment about the hearing, and also
declined to comment about whether Suede would be opening after its