City Attorney's office investigators staked out and then raided a nightclub that appeared to be operating only in the wee hours (2 a.m. to 6 a.m.) and without any kind of license during the coronavirus lockdown.
Working from a tip, investigators reviewed surveillance video taken from across the street from the warehouse/club, which is located near a dead end at 2266 Shafter Avenue in the Bayview district. Videos showed more than 100 people entering and exiting on two different nights in March, with a security guard frisking them at the door, and a witness reported raucous activity at the property on April 4 and 5. The investigators then sought surveillance footage and staked out the property on April 8 and observed many cars coming and going, and groups of people going in and out of a door without regard for any social distancing.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera explains in a release that his office sought a warrant to enter the property, which it received on Friday, April 10, at which point SFPD patrol cars were stationed outside the property, deterring would-be club-goers. Then on Saturday, they executed the warrant, and found a DJ set-up, fog machine, gambling machines, two pool tables, bins of liquor, cases of beer, and $670 in cash inside.
"This pandemic is deadly serious. People need to treat it that way," Herrera said in a statement. "Cramming dozens of people into an illegal club during this outbreak is like dropping a lit match in the woods during fire season. Who knows how far the damage will spread? It’s the epitome of irresponsibility."
The initial tip about activity at the Shafter Avenue building came five rapid-fire gunshots were heard in the area around 3 a.m. back on March 15. Loud music was subsequently reported emanating from the space on multiple occasions. This suggests that the underground club had been operating before shelter-in-place orders arrived that shut down all legal bars and clubs citywide.
As the Chronicle reports, the owner of the property — whose name has not been released — cooperated fully with the city attorney, and it appears the illegal club may have been the work of a tenant who was operating a janitorial business in the space.
EXCLUSIVE | An underground nightclub in SF’s Bayview was shut down Saturday for illegally operating during the coronavirus outbreak, The Chronicle has learned.— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) April 13, 2020
Story by @ctuan: https://t.co/cF9pGsCoIm pic.twitter.com/qYphlp7BRA
In addition to creating a public health risk by allowing over 100 people to congregate and socialize in the space, the operators of this illegal club were violating other laws. The building (obviously) had no entertainment permit or liquor license, and as Herrera explains, the space also lacked proper sprinklers and other fire-safety requirements.
SFPD Chief William Scott says in a statement, "The operators of this illegal club senselessly put lives at risk in a time when our city is doing everything within our means to slow the spread of this pandemic and safeguard the health and wellbeing of the public. Let this case be a reminder that we will take action against those who knowingly violate the public health order and endanger the health and safety of our residents."
Update: The Chronicle reports that the scofflaw lessee in this case was Mariano Pena Lezama, whose janitorial company was being used as a front for the illegal nightclub since sometime in February. The owners of the building have now issued a formal eviction notice, and their attorney tells the paper, "There was a party every night," with gatherings reportedly getting more raucous ever since the sheltering orders began a month ago. No arrests or criminal charges were made in connection with the illegal nightclub, but Herrera now says civil actions may be possible.
Photo via SFPD
This post has been corrected to show that the City Attorney's office conducted the stakeout with their own investigators, and executed a warrant to enter the property which was not a search warrant.