Illicit San Francisco nightclubs offering dangerous thrills 

An illegal after-hours club was discovered above a legitimate business at 463 Broadway.
  • An illegal after-hours club was discovered above a legitimate business at 463 Broadway.

The Entertainment Commission received a tip in early January about a club that was operating illegally above an existing business at 463 Broadway in North Beach. After an investigation, the commission and The City’s fire marshal moved in to shut down the operation.

Vajra Grenalli, an inspector with the commission, said though the club was small, it is an example of a much larger issue that can be difficult to track.

“There’s a lot of empty space in The City right now,” Grenalli said. “This situation, some guys were just trying to make the rent, which is also pretty common, so they agree to throw a party for one night.”

The 463 Broadway club was operating as an after-hours establishment, Grenalli said, above a legitimate and permitted business.

Grenalli said since the fire marshal closed the club, he’s spoken with the building owner, tenant and property management and doesn’t expect any similar situations in the future.

In the past, the commission has had to respond to much larger parties — including one in a South of Market warehouse in 2006 that ended with a shooting death outside. Grenalli said deaths at the events are rare, but fights and other violence are commonplace.

Operating an illegal club is problematic from many standpoints, Grenalli said.

“It’s a big public safety issue,” he said. “There’s no sprinkler system, no fire exits and no plan to make sure people are safe. From The City’s perspective, we don’t know if things start to go sideways, there’s someone there who knows how to deal with it.”

Shell Thomas, the president of the North Beach Association, said illegal clubs are bad for legitimate businesses too.

“It hurts those who’ve put a lot of time, money and effort into a legitimate business,” he said. “But also it hurts the retail businesses if we have a saturation of empty storefronts that are closed during the day, because they will operate as nightclubs at night.”

Grenalli said business owners who agree to allow the illegal parties might not realize they can apply for a 24-hour permit that will allow the party to take place legally.

“We can’t govern behavior,” Grenalli said. “But we can try and see that people are there to have a good time in a safe, permitted and regulated venue — and if they do get hurt, we want to be sure that person is taken care of.”

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