Riff Raff

Trouble in Clubland It's too early to put nails in the coffin, but it looks like V/SF, the dance club at the corner of 11th Street and Folsom, is about ready to get buried — just as the Trocadero was. Only two months ago SFPD Capt. Dennis Martell crossed the Trocadero Transfer from the top of an actual list of SOMA nightclubs that the police are trying to shut down. The Trocadero's fall put V/SF at an uncomfortable No. 1. Now, Martell says that police will suspend and possibly revoke the club's cabaret and after-hours permits — and that the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) department will be suspending the venue's liquor license, as well. That will make V/SF a box with lights and soda. Martell says that neighbors have complained about thefts, violence, and noise on the premises for over two years; police hope the suspensions will placate the area's growing new population of live/work-space residents, who have been engaged in an increasingly heated battle to quiet the clubs in San Francisco's booming industrial zone. Club owners say that the police have stepped up efforts in the area, scheduling more beat cops, sending more parking patrols, and — most disturbingly from the clubs' point of view — going after their entertainment and drinking permits. Martell says that's all part of the plan. “We want to modify the behavior of the patrons of these clubs,” he says — and notes the crackdown will continue for at least the next three weeks, though he uses the phrase “positive interactions.” But the cops are going to be doing more than offering handshakes and smiles. “I support the clubs, but we're going to hold them accountable for infractions,” says Martell. “If we observe illegal activity we will act accordingly.” Many club owners feel the increased police presence has created even more problems. V/SF owner Kevin Murphy says that some SFPD tactics are unfair. For instance, at the five-year anniversary party for “Bondage A Go-Go,” two officers parked a cruiser in front of the club and stayed there all night. “It was a little intimidating to myself and patrons,” says Murphy. “We ran the place that night like Grace Cathedral.” The club's position is that the neighbors are unwilling to work out a compromise. “The beat cops say we run a nice place and that they don't have a problem with us,” says Murphy. “They've been pressured by outside people's complaints and they have to cite.” Paradise Lounge owner Robin Reichert agrees. “It puts the police officers on the beat in a difficult situation,” he says. “The beat cops don't have a problem with us.” Now the cops are getting overzealous, the clubs contend. Reichert says he witnessed one questionable incident two weeks ago. “After putting two guys in a paddy wagon outside the DNA, an officer gestured to the crowd watching the scene with his hands and asked, 'Who wants to be next?' ” To the clubs, the ABC is more unnerving than the cops. Michael Tyrell, district administrator of the ABC, says it's his agency's job to manage how businesses with liquor licenses affect the neighborhoods in which they operate — including noise. V/SF has the dubious honor of being the first club in the 11th Street corridor that the ABC has actively worked to shut down in conjunction with the Police Department. (The Trocadero, in the China Basin area, was a victim of the same coordinated punch.) The precedent is what worries club owners, who see the increased amount of live/work residences leading to the loss of even more SOMA nightspots. Their solution: the creation of a special-use district for nightclubs and a halt to new live/work spaces. At the Board of Permit Appeals last Wednesday, club owners lost the first battle. In a 3-to-2 vote, the board turned down an appeal that might have halted construction of new live/work spaces at Harrison and 11th Street. Despite the ruling, club owners have at least one friend on the board in Commissioner Carole S. Cullum. Last week, hearing that some area clubs and bars (including the Holy Cow) were already having permit problems, Cullum said that any club facing a lost permit should appeal to the board immediately. “Be sure to tell the clubs to appeal,” she told Riff Raff, “because we won't stand for it.” (R.A.)

We Vote for Street Dog Last week, the San Francisco Newspaper Agency — the company that sells advertising for and distributes the Chronicle and the Examiner — invited club, bar, theater, and restaurant owners to sit in front of a two-way mirror downtown and discuss the appeal, or lack thereof, of a proposed new insert in the Chron. Happily, the focus group was not required to sign a confidentiality statement; Riff Raff's friends in the club world were quick to soothe our burning curiosity with the particulars. The proposed insert will be a tabloid-style paper (much like the local weeklies) that will do in-depth coverage of music, art, theater, food, and film (much like the local weeklies) for an audience that finds the Datebook's weekly choices to be about as zesty as day-old bath water (much like the local weeklies). The insert would be distributed midweek (much like the local weeklies) inside the paper, and with possible additional distribution, either via drops at nightclubs, coffeehouses, record stores, and select retail outlets (much like the local weeklies) or doorstep delivery to a select demographic (i.e., twenty- to thirtysomething hipsters) in a target geographic location (i.e., Mission, SOMA, Haight). The graphics would be colorful and “youth-oriented,” to accompany equally colorful and “youth-oriented” columns on club fashion, DJ culture, and gay nightlife with the possibility of an “edgy horoscope” or “sassy sex columnists” (much like the local weeklies). Just to shake things up a bit, there is the promise of a two-page calendar spread, complete with superkeen highlights and eye-catching photos (much like the local weeklies). Apparently, the new tabloid would be designed to compete directly with the weeklies (much like the local weeklies). Our focus-group moles report a mock-up sporting a goateed turntablist cover boy accompanying a lead story written by Chronicle contributor Billy Jam, who's also written for both SF Weekly and the Bay Guardian, and a newsy scene column by the Chron's brightest and youngest new addition, ex-SF Weekly contributor James Sullivan. Sounds great to us! What could be better? How 'bout a really cool name, like the options given to our focus group: SF Date, SF Weekend, Hot Pink, The Purple, Street Dog, or Lick? Votes are still out. (S.T.)

It's a Benefit! Despite a rich history — as a lesbian hangout in the '30s, as a taxi dance-hall in the '40s, and as a folk and comedy club that presented the likes of the Smothers Brothers and Woody Allen through the '60s — the Purple Onion of late has been idiosyncratic. Over the past couple of years, Tom Guido — the club's wild-haired, skateboarding proprietor — has paid bands and bills erratically and advertised shows according to some impish whim. Still, the Onion is one of the last clubs where a person can see a good garage band for $5, and that counts for something. So say local faves the Hi-Fives, Saturn V, and the Dukes of Hamburg. Word has it that the Onion is in financial need and, as San Francisco is losing clubs faster than a speed addict loses teeth, the groups have agreed to play for free on Saturday, April 18, to benefit the basement emporium. It's not the first time and it won't be the last. “Hey, every time we play the Purple Onion, we regret it,” says Johnny Bartlett, guitarist for Saturn V and the Sugar King Boys. “But we like to know it's there.” (S.T.)

This Is Not an Obituary After a three-year bout with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Tim Yohannan, the fiftysomething punk rocker and tireless activist, died Friday, April 3, at home under hospice care with friends nearby. Yohannan had a hand in just about every punk institution that mattered in the Bay Area. He was instrumental in helping create the Gilman Street club in Berkeley, the Epicenter Zone record store and community space in San Francisco, and Maximum RocknRoll, whose influence was worldwide. In his will, Yohannan asked his friends and successors at the magazine to withhold any obituaries. In keeping with his wishes, several of his closest friends declined to talk with us. (J.S.)

Wait, Didn't We Melt in the Original Blast? This week's most unlikely metaphor comes from the pages of the Boston Phoenix. (J.S.)

As the atomic bomb changed the world, so the explosive emergence of a new concert-business conglomerate threatens to transform the $1.3 billion live-music industry. A half-billion-dollar spending spree has made SFX Entertainment a superpower — the first nationwide concert promoter. And when the mushroom cloud of its birth clears and the giant begins flexing its muscle, the shock waves may affect everyone from booking agents to artists to competing promoters and — most important — you.

It's (Another) Benefit! Late last year, Home Away From Homelessness — a charitable organization that provides a safe environment in the Marin Headlands for street kids and their families — suffered a serious hardship when its drop-in center at Fort Mason caught fire. In order to help HAFH rebuild, “New Wave City” will donate 100 percent of its proceeds on Friday, April 17, at Club Townsend while spinning party faves like Duran Duran, Madness, and Siouxsie Sioux. Call 675-5683. (J.D.P.)

“For the record, we never broke up. We just took a 14-year vacation.”: Robert Arriaga (R.A.), Johnny DiPaola (J.D.P.), Karl D. Esturbense (K.D.E.), Jeff Stark (J.S.), Silke Tudor (S.T.), Heather Wisner (H.W.), and Bill Wyman (B.W.). Send Bay Area music news, band stories, or petty gripes to jstark@sfweekly.com, or mail it to Riff Raff, c/o SF Weekly.

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