The Fight to Save The Mezzanine & Nightlife in San Francisco
You may have heard that the Mezzanine, one of San Francisco’s beloved music venues, was being forced out of its home on 444 Jessie st. The Mezzanine’s landlords threatened to raise their rent by 600% by year’s end, essentially kicking them out in order to convert the thriving nightlife venue into yet more office spaces. It’s a situation far too familiar in SF, this May the landlords of San Francisco’s legendary comedy club Punch Line SF, fell victim to the same kind of greedy tactic when its landlord refused to renew their lease. The Punch Line’s landlord saw tech giant Google moving into an adjoining property, and saw their chance to cash in by throwing out a thriving comedy institution, in favor of yes, more office space.
But, as it turns out, Democracy is not dead, and San Francisco still has politicians willing to stand up to the greed of the few, in order to do what’s best for their city and protect institutions that the great majority of their constituents wish to protect. This week, District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney introduced temporary ‘zoning controls’ in his district, which would zone the Mezzanine as an entertainment venue. This measure, if passed by the Board of Supervisors would force property owners to get a special permit if they want to transform clubs or bars into office space, or anything other than an entertainment venue.
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Supervisor Aaron Peskin created the similar types of protections in his district for the Punch Line, and potentially could protect more wonderful venues in District 3 from being forced out by landlords. (Dist. 3 contains North Beach, Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, the FiDi.)
We asked Sup. Haney what can San Franciscans do to support this measure, and help protect cherished venues? Haney stated, “They can show up to the hearings at Land Use Committee when this is heard. They can push on the building owners to negotiate with Mezzanine. They can contact their Supervisors and ask them to support the legislation.”
We asked him about who is opposing this measure in the private sector and at City Hall? “I’m not sure yet who is opposing it, I just introduced it this week. Maybe some landlords or people who hate music and fun.”
Haney told the crowd at Mezzanine Thursday, “This is an independent venue. It’s a venue that’s woman-owned. It supports the community, it supports independent acts. It should not have to compete with big-tech office space in order to be able to stay here,”
If Haney’s measure passes it will effectively (if temporarily) protect over 100 entertainment venues in the SOMA, from 5th street to 12th st.
Mezzanine owner Deborah Jackman shared some tentative good news to supporters, after the media helped expose her landlords plans to cut short her lease by 3 months, effectively screwing all the artists, performers and staff out of 3 months of planned worked and performances, the landlords offered to honor their agreement and give the Mezzanine until New Years Day, 2020 to leave. But nothing is certain, the landlords (owners of Microbiz Security Company) have reneged on that same offer in the past.
Hopefully, with continued efforts from our leaders, and citizens who still care about our city’s cultural fabric, we’ll create a more permanent way to protect what makes our city a vibrant and exciting place to live and visit. Money, must not be our only guiding principle.
Thanks to Chris Sanders of the Mezzanine for keeping us informed, to Derek Tobias for masterfully photographing the press conference, and to Supervisors Matt Haney, Aaron Peskin, & Ahsha Safaí of the Land Use Committee for standing up and working to protect important independent businesses in our city.