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Pot club not allowed on North Beach porn strip 

Wednesday, Aug 11 2010
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Despite North Beach's colorful history, there really isn't much to do on Broadway in 2010: You can go to a bar, or you can go to a strip club. Bruce Rossignol saw all this, and wanted to change it. The former investment banker who spent 10 years living on Telegraph Hill, just above Broadway's decadence, has been working to provide the Broadway corridor an alcohol- and sex-free option: namely, a medical cannabis dispensary.

Rossignol planned to convert the North Beach Theatre — a shuttered porno movie house on Kearny Street, steps from Broadway and across the street from Larry Flynt's Hustler Club — into what would be the neighborhood's only pot club. (There was one, briefly, on Columbus Avenue; it closed almost five years ago). The Joynt Collective would eventually offer live jazz music and a cafe menu alongside OG Kush and Granddaddy Purple. He envisioned that patrons could sip tea or coffee and medicate while watching NFL games on big-screen TVs.

That was the plan, until Rossignol recently discovered that the city's zoning laws wouldn't allow him to move into the spot. A block away from Broadway's bastion of strip clubs is John Yehall Chin Elementary School at 350 Broadway near Montgomery. While it's perfectly acceptable for business like Centerfolds and Showgirls to operate near the school, a pot club is another matter. San Francisco's medical cannabis laws prohibit clubs from operating within 1,000 feet of a school. The old porn theater is 450 feet away, so pot is a no-go.

While it may seem silly to allow sex but prohibit pot near public schools, the city has been strict about enforcing the 1,000-foot barrier, according to attorney David Owen, a partner in a soon-to-open Mission Street pot club and former chief of staff for ex-Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who represented North Beach. In theory, a pot club could ask for a zoning variance — essentially a one-time exception issued to get around the 1,000-foot rule — and, in light of adjacent storefronts advertising naked women, it might seem logical. "But it's never happened," Owen says, "and I don't think the [planning] department looks on [issuing variances] favorably."

Rossignol has been looking at other property in the neighborhood, but real estate is at a premium in North Beach, and nothing like the theater is available. "I've been a productive member of this neighborhood for years, and it needs a reminder of what it once was," he told SF Weekly. "I understand if people [disagree with medical marijuana], but I think there needs to be some sensibility here. It used to be a porno theater, for God's sake. If you're trying to do positive things for your community, you shouldn't run into this much red tape."

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Bio:
Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.

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