Turning the Tables

Police have made a number of arrests and seizures of DJ equipment at underground parties and clubs. Is it enforcement or harassment?

The complaints describe Bertrand and Ott as two officers on a power trip who target certain clubs, make unreasonable inspections, and verbally abuse security and staff.

Mike Quan, owner of Mist, said that Bertrand and Ott had been visiting his club since September, and that in January and early February they showed up every weekend. Quan said the pair repeatedly demanded to see his permits, even though they knew they were valid from previous checks.

One time, Quan alleges, Ott approached a mature-looking man on the dancefloor, demanded to see his ID, noted his information, and then walked away. Floor manager Hanh Nguyen said that at least once, Bertrand and Ott came in at the peak of a busy weekend night, got out their flashlights, and insisted on checking all the alcohol bottles at the bar for bugs — even though that meant putting the bar out of service in the middle of the party.

Quan's security staff say that Bertrand and Ott have chastised them for not keeping the club's sidewalks clear, even at 1:45 a.m., as people are leaving for the night. Quan's head of security said this was the harshest police enforcement he's seen in 10 years in the business. One night, Quan claims, Ott told him that she had shut down his other clubs and that Mist would be next.

Quan and his staff have a history with Bertrand and Ott: Last June, the two officers used an undercover sting to bust the Room, Quan's club on Sixth Street, for an illegal expansion downstairs. (Quan claims he had secured appropriate planning permission, but that there was a problem with the paperwork.) As well as confiscating most of the stock in the downstairs bar, Nguyen said, Bertrand and Ott poured out an estimated 24 to 30 bottles of alcohol that were already open after Ott claimed there were fruit flies in one of them. They also arrested a 31-year-old bartender who had left his ID at home, even though Quan says he offered to show them a copy he had in his office.

Of course, the bust at the Room didn't come out of nowhere: The week before, Bertrand had responded to a stabbing on the Room's dancefloor.

According to the police incident report, officers arrived at the club to find a man bleeding from his stomach and arm. He told police he had been on the dancefloor and thought someone had hit him, but when he looked down he saw he had been stabbed.

"It wasn't a big stabbing," Quan said. As he describes it, some guy had stuck another guy with a box cutter. He never heard back from the victim; if it had been serious, he argues, he would have been sued.

Club Caliente on 11th Street was cited three times last fall for having minors on the premises, but owner Maurice Salinas claims he was forced to shut down completely after his primarily Latino patrons interpreted a bust by Bertrand and Ott as an immigration raid. As SF Weekly reported in December, Salinas complained to the Entertainment Commission, alleging racial profiling, intimidation, and harassment, after officers including Bertrand and Ott lined his customers up against the wall to check their IDs. Salinas says that subsequent attendance dropped dramatically, forcing him to shut the club.

In an interview, McDonagh emphasized, "Caliente was never singled out to say that we're going to shut it down. We don't want to see people shut their businesses; we just want to see them in compliance with the law."

At nightlife stalwart DNA Lounge, owner Jamie Zawinski says his club was cited by Bertrand and Ott for having too many patrons blocking the sidewalk on New Year's Eve and Valentine's Day weekend. Zawinski labeled these charges "bullshit," since the events took place on busy holidays, his patrons were orderly, and the sidewalk wasn't actually blocked. Zawinski, who blogs extensively about controversies over ABC and SFPD nightlife enforcement, says that Bertrand told one of his staff that he knew about the blogging, and that they would see more of him in the future.

Zawinski and Quan both allege that Bertrand and Ott failed to follow up on tickets issued to their venues. Zawinski said that when his manager went to the Hall of Justice to deal with a ticket for not keeping the sidewalk clear, a clerk told him the ticket was invalid. Quan said that when Ott issued him a ticket for the Room, his court date was rescheduled for a furlough day, and that he showed up to find that no one was there.

Javier Magallon, the bartender who was arrested during the bust of the Room, said that this happened when he tried to find out why he had been arrested. The trouble started when Ott approached him belligerently, he said. "Every time she asked a question, she prefaced it with, 'If you don't answer this, you're going to jail,'" he recalled. He couldn't understand the strong-arm treatment. At one point, he claims, Bertrand asked him for his laptop. He was a bartender; why would he have a laptop?

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