Lucky 13 and the Elbo Room are currently endangered. Cafe Du Nord, The Lexington, Club Cocomo and others are already gone or counting down the days. Nightclub owners aren’t laying down anymore, though. At Thursday's San Francisco Planning Commission meeting, nightclub and bar owners managed to win passage on a recommendation to counteract noise complaints from new condo residents. It’s too late to save the Red Devil Lounge or Sound Factory, but condo-threatened clubs like Bottom of the Hill and The Independent may find some relief in the proposed measure.
“Embarrassingly, I think I’ve been to every single club mentioned,” said Planning Commission president Rodney Fong, before the commission unanimously recommended a law proposing protections to nightclubs threatened by residential noise complaints.
Of the nightclubs represented at the meeting, the primary concern was not the condo market’s impact on their monthly rent. (Several bar owners already own their buildings.) It’s that condos are moving in and their new residents complain about the noise from established nightclubs whom they just chose to buy a condo next to.
“We foresee a future where people buy $1 million, $2 million one-bedroom condos and they don’t want thumping music next door,” San Francisco Bar Owner Alliance founder Ben Bleiman told SFist. (Bleiman owns 7 bars in San Francisco in addition to just signing a deal for Spats in Berkeley, and has spearheaded a Save San Francisco's Nightlife from Developers online petition effort.) ”They’re going to attempt to shut [that nightclub] down and it’s already happened in many cases.”
Several of these shutdown and embattled bar and club owners and employees told their respective stories.
“I work at a place called the Make-Out Room in the Mission,” DJ Parker Gibbs told the commission. “The irony of this is we’ve recently got noise complaints from one of the new, big condos that has come in. And the condo used the Make-Out Room in their promotional material.”
“In my case, Cafe Du Nord, the developers that moved in next door wanted to build 87 apartments” said Cafe DuNord’s (former) co-owner Guy Carson at the Planning Commission meeting. “They were big players with big guns. They were from out-of-state and had absolutely no interest in San Francisco’s nightlife culture, or in the culture of the neighborhood.“
Supervisors London Breed and Scott Wiener proposed the measure to protect clubs from noise complaints by requiring buyers. tenants and building owners to be notified that the property is close to a nightclub. Breed has the soon-to-be-condo-adjacent The Independent in her district while Wiener had Cafe DuNord in his, not to mention many voters who identify as Lexington regulars.
It sounds insane to people like us that a person actually could drop a million bucks on a condo and not realize that is is next to the Bottom of the Hill or The Independent. But many new residents buying condos truly do not realize this, as a realtor shows them the property at times like noon on a Tuesday when the clubs aren’t open yet.
It’s fair to wonder whether a noise-notification ordinance will actually affect the seemingly nonstop parade of nightclub closures currently walloping our fair city’s arts scene. But the nightclub owners seem to really think it will meaningful step. They’ve put great effort into enlisting support at the supervisor level and the public level, and they did get their proposal recommended by the Planning Commission. The proposal will now go to the Board of Supervisors for approval, with possible detours through a Land Use subcommittee and a Government Audit and Oversight subcommittee.