All Bingo Hall Wants for X-mas: P-E-R-M-I-T-S

By Lauren Smiley

 

bingo2.jpgSo much for $20 tucked in a greeting card from Grandma. Army Street Bingo is hoping Santa (well, at least a jolly Superior Court judge) will deliver a surprise worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

As in our story this week, the police have denied bingo permits to eight San Francisco non-profits that run fund-raising games at the bingo hall on Cesar Chavez for 2009, citing multiple violations of the law. With the clock till January 1 ticking, and no answer yet on whether police will overturn the denial, the bingo hall's landlord is now demanding that Superior Court intervene to save the games.

Wednesday morning, the San Francisco Community Service Center (the official name for the hall better known as Army Street Bingo) filed a writ of mandate in the court asking for a last-minute injunction on the permit denials. The injunction would allow the non-profits to continue holding games legally in the new year until the matter can be heard in court.

The filing argues that denying permits to the non-profits will cause "irreparable harm" to the bingo hall and hall manager Tom Rosenberg.

"If the police delay and delay and delay and they can't operate bingo, then the players will go to other places," says Matthew Wertheim, a former attorney for Rosenberg who filed a declaration in support of the writ. "So even if they get their permits back, it's a good chance they won't have the same crowd they had before.

"And Tom Rosenberg is saying I, too, will be out of business if the police act, because I rent the space...If he doesn't get rent, he's gonna have a lot of trouble."

Rosenberg says he provides the non-profits with a "turn-key hall" - complete with equipment, security and maintenance guys on which he himself pays over $20,000 in rent a month. (He says he charges each of the nine non-profits currently holding games at the hall $1550 for their weekly sessions, resulting in some $55,800 a month in total rent payments.)

Operating for 15 years, Army Street Bingo has built up a loyal following that provides each non-profit more than $200,000 of un-taxed income a year, according to IRS forms. For some of the charities, bingo provides up to three-fourths of the total annual revenue, which they argue is more essential than ever as dollars dry up in the recession and budget cuts.

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