Chiu Says It's Second Chance -- And Last Chance -- for the Entertainment Commission

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Is the party almost over?
Board of Supervisors President David Chiu appears to have the wind at his back in his growing crusade to impose reforms on the San Francisco Entertainment Commission, a seven-member panel of political appointees that has come under fire for not properly doing its job of regulating the city's nightclubs.

As we reported in a cover story last month, Chiu has faced a lonely political battle with his efforts to make the commission more accountable to police and residents, who say commissioners routinely ignore their complaints about violent clubs. The commission has the sole authority to suspend or revoke clubs' permits to stay open late and host live music acts, including DJs -- a power seen by many as the only real way to get problem club operators to fall into line.

The Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice and Entertainment Commission have opposed Chiu's efforts to strengthen new legislation designed to make the commission more effective. Now, Chiu says, it appears the most significant of his desired amendments are going to go through. He's also hoping to find an ally in the city's incoming police chief, George Gascon. And Chiu says that if the Entertainment Commission doesn't prove it can regulate San Francisco's rowdy nightclub industry with the new tools at its disposal -- which include, for example, the power to shut down clubs on short notice after outbreaks of violence -- it may be time to look at more far-reaching reforms.

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David Chiu
"This entire conversation started because it was clear that the Entertainment Commission was not doing its job in cracking down on nightclubs," Chiu told SF Weekly. "If these tools don't work, it will likely demonstrate pretty convincingly that the Entertainment Commission can't accomplish the task of regulating problematic clubs."

Chiu didn't specify in talking to us what he might have in mind if the Entertainment Commission still shows a lack of zeal in its regulatory duties. But he told San Francisco Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius in a story printed today that one approach would be to "strengthen the role of the police department" in the permitting process.

Prior to the creation of the Entertainment Commission in 2003, police captains decided who got and kept nightclub permits. They'd probably be happy to regain some of their former influence on the permitting process, but don't expect the industry-dominated Entertainment Commission -- as well as the many nightclub owners who have benefited from its laissez-faire attitude -- to roll over without a fight.

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