Forum: Close clubs at 4 a.m., offer owners training 

Club owners who don’t control their patrons should lose their entertainment licenses, but The City should provide more education on effective management, according to some members of the Entertainment Commission. One commissioner renewed calls to extend the legal drinking time to 4 a.m. in order to avoid a mass, unruly exodus outside nightclubs at 2 a.m.

The four-year-old agency has been cracking down on scofflaw club owners recently, including one whose license was suspended last month and another who faces a suspension if a March 22 complaint is not rectified.

The commission exists to dispense various entertainment permits and to act as a liaison between residents, enforcement agencies and places of entertainment, a role that rarely leaves it with friends on all sides.

During a lunchtime forum at the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association on Thursday, Commissioner Terrance Alan and Director Jocelyn Kane called for more civic flexibility in some of the laws governing nightspots, as well as more city-sponsored education and training for potential club owners, which may include some kind of certification.

On March 20, the commission voted to suspend the entertainment license of the Zebra Lounge in North Beach after a sheriff’s deputy was punched in the face while trying to control an unruly crowd. On March 22, the commission served Angel Cruz, the owner of Club Six in South of Market area, with a complaint detailing repeated noise violations.

Alan and Kane both said that, due to strict noise controls, sound emanating from buildings is not the biggest problem with nightspots. Rather, they said, the drunken crowds that spill out into the street at 2 a.m. generate the bulk of neighbor complaints.

During his SPUR address, Alan called on state legislators to revisit a 2004 initiative that would extend alcohol sales in some cities from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. He said the initiative would calm crowd noise by creating a "trickle out" effect. Also, he said, because most nightclub patrons don’t go out until 11 p.m. or so, and last call is generally at 1:30 a.m., the short drinking time creates "an atmosphere of frenzy and binge."

After Zebra club owner Isaac Lee’s entertainment license was suspended, commission President Jordan Shlain said in an interview that The City needs more nightclub owners "who know what they’re doing and who come to the table with the idea of enriching the cultural landscape in San Francisco."

Like most businesses, there is no sanctioned test of one’s ability to operate a nightclub. "The test, in a free-market economy, is, you go bankrupt," Alan said Thursday. "But it’s always with a great expense because the neighborhood suffers, the police suffer, other businesses suffer."

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