Sup. Wiener Takes on Board Over Privacy Issues in Bars & Clubs

Recently over at the DNA Lounge's blog, the popular SOMA nightclub and home to Trannyshack, we read they'd been told by SFPD that they must, "install video surveillance that records everything our customers do, and to give that footage to SFPD any time they ask, without a warrant or explanation." They flat-out refused.

Sup. Wiener in a laid back moment gettin' his swerve on.
Sup. Wiener in a laid back moment gettin' his swerve on.

We found this a disturbing and chilling development. How many Castro bars and nightclubs have been approached by SFPD to install customer spyware? Doesn't it violate privacy rights?

Seems we weren't the only concerned. Tuesday at the Board of Supes (BOS) meeting two new spots who's beer/wine permits are contingent on fulfilling this legally suspect requirement came up for review and approval. Only Sup. Scott Wiener from the Castro's Dist. 8 opposed based on his privacy concerns involving the camera requirement.

The SF BOS is peppered with liberals like Supervisors Avalos, Campos and Kim it seems odd that the right to privacy and potential Constitutional issue is being championed by one of the few moderates on the Board known for his more conservative views.

The way this works: the City is calling the new, up till now, under the radar policy, 'Conditional Licensing'. Meaning, if you want to open a bar/nightclub business in our town with any kind of booze, you have to adhere to special requirements to obtain the permit.

The condition was placed within the process by the SFPD with the approving nod from CA Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control. It requires surveillance of the doorways of the business, and that the footage be stored for at least 30 days and turned over to police upon request. They believe this is an important tool to have to combat potential crime.

According to DNA's blog they were informed by the City's Entertainment Commission, generally the arbitrator of all things fun in SF, this condition is now standard with every new permit being forked out by the City, and, everyone else has been unwilling or uneasy about challenging it since the permits are so hard to get in the first place.

In the SF Examiner on Tuesday Sup. Wiener made his concerns crystal clear. He believes the requirement could be an effort by the Police Department to eventually enact a citywide policy of surveillance at all bars by adding the condition as individual liquor licenses come up for approval or renewal.

“In the LGBT community for Gay bars, there are people who are not out of the closet who go into these bars and they don’t want to be recorded,” Wiener said.

Tom Temprano, 2nd from the left, with members of the Harvey Milk Dem. Club.
Tom Temprano, 2nd from the left, with members of the Harvey Milk Dem. Club.

I spoke with Tom Temprano, President of the Harvey Milk Democratic Club (HMDC),aka DJ Carnitas of Hard French fame, about these new permit developments during the Equality March last week.

Tom is also a new bar owner. He recently purchased Naps III next to El Rio on Mission St. He and many others in the City's Entertainment Industry, an $80 million dollar a year revenue and tax base boon for SF, are deeply concerned. Bar owner and staff feel this is the wrong direction for the City to be going in its approach to combating potential crime and violence at City bars and clubs.

He revealed he is meeting with Sup. Wiener later today to discuss the situation and see how the HMDC can weigh in on the issue.

Given the precarious historical relationship between the LGBT community and the police I tend to think no one is going to like the idea of being photographed, tracked and recorded for some who knows what need of the police.

We will continue to cover the story as it develops and let you know if soon you'll be under City sanctioned, watchful eye of Big Brother at your favorite local Castro area watering hole.

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