San Francisco supervisors take issue with bar surveillance video 

Police want surveillance cameras installed outside Eagle Club Indoor Golf on Howard Street in order to combat crime. - ANNA LATINO/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Anna Latino/Special to the S.F. Examiner
  • Police want surveillance cameras installed outside Eagle Club Indoor Golf on Howard Street in order to combat crime.

When crime cameras for San Francisco’s streets were first installed in 2005, city officials hotly debated the privacy concerns. Now a debate has erupted over surveillance cameras in bars as more liquor licenses are being approved under the condition that bar owners film customers coming and going.

Supervisor Scott Wiener objected to the surveillance requirement added to two liquor license applications before the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

The licenses were for on-site sales of beer and wine at 34 Mason St. and Eagle Club Indoor Golf at 555 Howard St. The board approved the first permit in a 10-1 vote, with Wiener dissenting, but postponed a decision on the latter permit until April 16 to allow for additional discussion.

“If you have an establishment that perhaps has a track record of bad things happening, that’s one thing. But absent that, I don’t believe that this is justified,” Wiener said of the requirement.

The condition was placed on the permits by the Police Department in consultation with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. It requires surveillance of the doorways of the business, and that the footage be stored for at least 30 days and turned over to police upon request.

Wiener suggested the requirement was an effort by the Police Department to eventually enact a citywide policy of surveillance at all bars by adding the condition as individual liquor licenses come up for approval. He also highlighted privacy concerns.

“In the LGBT community for gay bars, there are people who are not out of the closest who go into these bars and they don’t want to be recorded,” Wiener said.

Supervisor Jane Kim, whose district includes both establishments, said she “generally” doesn’t support surveillance cameras. But, she said, “We have found surveillance cameras to be incredibly useful” in combating crime.

Supervisor David Campos said he plans to hold a hearing with Wiener to discuss the requirement, likening the issue to the debate that ensued over the installation of street crime cameras beginning in 2005.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu suggested that simply amending the language could address some of Wiener’s concerns, such as saying the footage would be “destroyed” after 30 days and only turned over to police “for investigation of a crime.”

Chiu also said the ultimate decision on the requirement should be worked out by neighbors and the district supervisor. He said neighborhoods he represents have asked for this type of surveillance.

Chiu added that it may be worthwhile to ask the Police Department to explain the policy “so that we can ensure that we are both maximizing our city’s civil liberties and ensuring public safety at the same time.”

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