We heard two weeks ago that the 41-year-old Punch Line comedy club on Battery Street was going to close in August and possibly move due to a rent increase, and that Dave Chappelle had already booked a couple of short-notice, sold-out shows there this week. This morning at 11 a.m., Chappelle, W. Kamau Bell, Nato Green, and Supervisor Aaron Peskin led a rally on the steps of City Hall to push to save the club.
As the Chronicle reports, Peskin is nominating the Punch Line for Legacy Business status today, which would potentially give the landlords financial incentives to keep the club in place. The landlord is One Maritime Plaza, which is a subsidiary of Morgan Stanley, and as NBC Bay Area reported two weeks ago, the club and management company Live Nation was unable to reach a new lease agreement with the landlord — and there is reportedly a new tenant lined up: Google.
"This has been the incubator for the greatest comics in America and there’s no reason they should be forced out," Peskin said to the Chron. "Morgan Stanley, which is a multi-billion dollar corporation, and their new lessee need to honor the Punchline’s legacy."
At the rally, Peskin announced, "We recently learned that the likely lessee is Google. I’d like to say to Google: Please, Do No Evil. We would like to solve this with honey rather than vinegar."
This showing is amazing. Still not too late. pic.twitter.com/PzOZ3mayjX— SaveThePunchLine (@SaveThePunch) May 21, 2019
Unfortunately the threat of eviction hanging over San Francisco’s historic, legendary Punch Line Comedy Club is NOT a joke. But we’ll have a big announcement with some VERY special guests at 11am on the steps of City Hall. See you there. #SaveThePunchLine https://t.co/VOAFB33BUx— Aaron Peskin (@AaronPeskin) May 21, 2019
We've seen negotiations like this happen before, and public attention over threats to relocate can, sometimes, lead to a quick return to the bargaining table.
Peskin is also reportedly going to introduce legislation at the Board of Supes' meeting today that would re-zone the Punch Line's space as entertainment, thereby blocking Google from taking the space.
The Punch Line was founded in 1978, and it originally lived in a dressing room in the defunct rock club in an adjacent space called the Old Waldorf, at 444 Battery Street (now the Punch Line's address). The venue was sold to Bill Graham in 1980, and the stage would go on to be a proving ground for the likes of Robin Williams, Dana Carvey, Ellen Degeneres, Wanda Sykes, Margaret Cho, Drew Carey and Chris Rock at early points in their careers. Comedians nationwide have a special love for San Francisco audiences, and many current stars including Zach Galifianakis, Amy Schumer, Chelsea Handler, Hannibal Buress, and John Mulaney played the Punch Line early on, and continue to make surprise return appearances there.
Dave Chappelle says he had great memories at @punchlinesf. It was the last place he saw Robin Williams alive, he said in front of City Hall in an effort to help save the historic comedy club from moving in August. https://t.co/OSuC1qv1WF #SaveThePunchLine pic.twitter.com/cODyEGQNhp— NBC Bay Area (@nbcbayarea) May 21, 2019
“We recently learned that the likely lessee is Google. I’d like to say to Google: Please, Do No Evil. We would like to solve this with honey rather than vinegar.” -@AaronPeskin @SaveThePunch #SaveThePunchLine pic.twitter.com/TxnZQBK7s2— imperfect produce 🍃 (@LeeHepner) May 21, 2019