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If we were to choose one sector that epitomizes the exciting patchwork mores of San Francisco life, it would be the 200 block of Jones Street. The bustling lane brings together all the things that make our dear City by the Bay so distinct: homeless people, chronic protesters, incensed Christians, and a panoply of adult amusements.
Dog Bites -- always keen to raise the poster board for justice or raise a glass for a particularly dynamic choreographed reading of "Girls, Girls, Girls" -- finds the recent action at 220 Jones irresistible. The business at said address, a (straight) gentlemen's club by the name of Chez Paree, has been attracting a swarm of demonstrators from the San Francisco Rescue Mission next door for nearly six months -- and because of the unique relationship between Chez Paree and the S.F. Rescue Mission, the picketing might go on indefinitely.
The locale of Chez Paree has been a home for adult entertainment for more than 53 years. It currently houses a stage for nude female dancing, but just last year it was a gay-orientated movie house. The next-door neighbor, 8-year-old S.F. Rescue Mission, houses the San Francisco Christian Academy and a drop-in center for the homeless. Even if the two storefronts seem to offer everything the outside world has come to love about San Francisco, the Rescue Mission has started to fuss about the, ahem, dissimilarity of the respective services. The sidewalk in front of Chez Paree, accordingly, has become the stomping grounds of schoolchildren, churchgoers, and janitors who would prefer a more Christianly neighbor.
The dispute grabbed a few headlines in April when Pastor Roger Huang parked himself outside City Hall for a 32-day hunger strike to demand the city remove the sinful scourge from the neighborhood.
Did it work?
"Well, we're still open, and I heard he gained 20 pounds," cracks a Chez Paree bouncer, who commented on the condition that Dog Bites only use his first name, Dave (though the mountainous man-wall would also accept "Big Dave").
Huang, however, sees things differently. When Supervisor Matt Gonzalez had to step in to make the disputing factions play nice, Huang claimed victory after reaching a verbal agreement with Chez Paree landlord Terrance Allen. "I made an agreement with the owner of the pornographic establishment," explained Huang over the phone. "We have made a commitment that he will sell that building, and we will buy it. We continue the protest and picket until that sale takes place."
Sound simple? It isn't. Chez Paree might not be as infamous as the Mitchell Brothers O'Farrell Theater up the hill, but the city's restricted licensing of such establishments makes the diminutive little dance hall much more valuable than your average Tenderloin storefront. There are no available figures from the city or Huang's own appraiser, but without a doubt, the place is worth a bundle because it's been zoned for adult entertainment.
Landlord Allen is well aware of this fact. "Everything is for sale at the right price," he chirps with notable scorn. The value of the property is being appraised, and Dog Bites can only imagine that Allen's "right price" will include a lot of zeros.
What's more, the relationship between the phenomenal, never-ending picket line and the strip club looks like it might remain blissfully symbiotic -- because of scheduling. The protesters meet almost every weekday at about 3 p.m. -- that is, around the time school gets out -- to silently circle beneath Chez Paree's marquee. They disband around 5 p.m., about the time Chez Paree opens for business. By keeping these hours, the picket doesn't hurt business for the strippers, and the strippers don't get the chance to corrupt the innocent minds of the children.
Though Big Dave and other community members don't pay much mind to the daily Jesus parade, the tireless evangelicals are slowly wearing out their welcome. Dave claims the protesters occasionally make the sidewalk impassable to wheelchair-bound seniors who live on the block. Oh, the humanity!
"They just get in everyone's way," says Adil Elmakhzoumi, a pizza maker at Cortoba Pizza and Restaurant. "And they don't make any sense. They only picket when the club is closed." Elmakhzoumi likes Chez Paree because it "brings all kinds of people, social classes, and walks of life to the neighborhood." (Many of those walks of life, we should mention, like to eat slices of pizza.)
Convenience store clerk Ray Eid at G&H Liquor & Grocery is also confused by the Christian soldiers. "[Chez Paree] is good for the community, bro," Eid says. And then he adds: "I just don't understand why they didn't protest when it was a gay club." (Nate Cavalieri)