City suspends North Beach Club’s permit 

After a sheriff’s deputy was punched in the face during a drunken melee at a San Francisco nightclub late last year, the club will be effectively closed for 30 days.

The assault on the deputy was the culmination of club owner Isaac Lee’s failure to adequately control the popular Zebra Lounge’s crowds, according to a pre-hearing filing by the San Francisco Entertainment Commission.

Ongoing problems included crowds blocking the sidewalk in front of 447 Broadway as they wait for entrance, crowds blocking the fire exits and unruly patrons inside the two-level establishment, according to the filing.

On Tuesday, the commission voted to suspend Lee’s entertainment permit for the regular disc jockeys and dancing at the nightspot for 30 days. The suspension and temporary closure come as The City works to curb alcohol-fueled criminal activity in North Beach on weekend nights. The area wastargeted as a hot spot last year, and agencies including police, sheriff and the Entertainment Commission organized a "crackdown" on the Broadway corridor.

Meanwhile, club owners citywide have been facing increased scrutiny of adherence to noise regulations, liquor laws and crowd control. "I think there has been a rash of bad actors, of people who have not been responsible as club owners," Entertainment Commission President Jordan Shlain said Wednesday.

"What we’re looking for is good, responsible club owners, people with good track records of doing this. We want [club owners] who know what they’re doing and who come to the table with the idea of enriching the cultural landscape in San Francisco," Shlain said.

Telephone calls to Lee’s residence and the club went unanswered Wednesday.

The trouble at Zebra started April 29, 2006, the date the commission first asked Lee to "take reasonable steps to control the crowd in front of the nightclub," according to the filing. Repeated requests yielded little progress in controlling the crowd, the document indicated, and on Dec. 16, the nuisance activity came to a head.

On that night, police officers, including Keith Matthews, observed "an extremely large group of people blocking the sidewalk while waiting to enter the nightclub." Matthews told Lee and his staff several times to move the crowd, the filing states, but the staff made "little effort to move the people."

When Matthews went into the club to inspect the crowd, a drunken man confronted him, and he placed the man under arrest. As he and other officers escorted the man, identified as Joseph Mack, out of the club, another man, identified as Charles Perkins, yelled that Mack was his friend and, while trying to free him, punched sheriff’s Deputy J. Reymundo in the face, according to the filing.

A large fight broke out as officers ordered the over-capacity nightclub to shut down early, the filing states.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who is prosecuting the violations, indicated Wednesday that while Lee’s management of the club has improved since the night of Dec. 16, it has not improved sufficiently to avoid the suspension.

"It got to the point with respect to this particular club that it was everyone’s belief that we had to hold this club accountable. It seemed like they weren’t getting the message that they have to be a good neighbor," Herrera said.

amartin@examiner.com

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