Despite the pandemic’s tightening grip on society, one that's squeezed-out a record-setting jump in national COVID-19 cases this week, people are still enjoying nightlife revelries — illegally. And SF officials this week shut down yet another unlawful nightclub, the second since April.
Amid growing outbreaks of the novel respiratory virus, national and state health officials continue advising that large gatherings — and the places they usually partake in, like indoor bars and outdoor shopping centers — should be avoided. Though, for better or worse, the human spirit is ever-stubborn. It’s this mulish outlook on life that has lately encouraged some San Franciscans to party and drink and gamble inside illegally run nightclubs around the city, with a second location being shut down Thursday afternoon by the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) and City Attorney office investigators.
The City Attorney’s Office and @SFPD have shut down a 2nd illegal nightclub for violating SF’s #StayHomeStaySafe public health order.— SF City Attorney (@SFCityAttorney) July 3, 2020
We'll use every tool at our disposal to shut down illegal clubs like this and protect public health during this pandemic. https://t.co/BxdIdlJ7NZ
According to the City Attorney's office, officers from SFPD’s Tactical Unit and Bayview Station executed a "civil inspection and abatement" Thursday afternoon, allowing them to enter a building at 1610 Armstrong Avenue in SF's Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood that was rumored to be operating as an underground nightclub, later confiscating a long list of goods: four gambling machines, a pool table, a fog machine, DJ equipment, 50 barstools, and more.
“These illegal nightclub operators are endangering people’s lives,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera says in a news release. “We’re not going to let that happen. Our focus right now is on removing the immediate threat to public health. We are going to use every tool at our disposal, including these types of civil warrants, to shut down illegal clubs and protect public health during this pandemic."
Back in April, the City Attorney's office investigators staked out and then raided a nightclub at 2266 Shafter Avenue in the same area that looked to only operate between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. — sans any appropriate licensing and in a conscious snuffing at the City's shelter-in-place restrictions. The same organizers behind that nightclub saw some 100-plus people nightly and are also apparently responsible for the one recently descended on by SPFD; the confiscated paraphernalia of 2266 Shafter Avenue club still remains in police custody.
This most recent operation, however, appeared to be a bit less popular than the first, described as attracting 75 people on weekends — an influx observed during an officer surveillance watch over two nights (June 26 and June 27). The building was purportedly being used by a cleaning company called Bay Area Pinnacle Cleaning, LLC and was rented by Mariano Pena, also known as "Mariano Pena Lezama," who, too, operated the 2266 Shafter Avenue property where the prior nightclub was held.
Though criminal prosecutions are funneled throughout the District Attorney, the City Attorney has authority over civil laws that threaten the health and safety of San Franciscans (like operating an unlawful nightclub during a global health crisis) and sees the pursuance against these types of illegal activity.
In both a damning guilt trip and stand against large-scale gatherings, Herra concluded in the news release saying "these illegal nightclub operators are endangering people’s lives," before waxing on the latter call for proper social distancing: "San Francisco is seeing a concerning increase in COVID-19 cases. Group gatherings like this are a problem."
Per the City Attorney's office, those who see suspicious things like these in your neighborhood should contact the Code Enforcement Hotline at 415-554-3977. And those renting commercial properties — especially individuals who've just recently signed leases — the City Attorney warns to be careful about who you rent to and stay vigilant about knowing what’s going on at your property.
Image: Screenshot via Google Maps