SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Business owners along Broadway street in San Francisco's North Beach are once again upset after surveillance video captured a series of fights and people running for cover from gunshots in the early morning hours following St. Patrick's Day celebrations.
A few minutes before 2 a.m. March 18th, the video shows the first fight beginning with two men trading punches. Suddenly, a third man comes out of nowhere and sucker punches one of the men. He collapses to the ground as the others kick him repeatedly. The man appears to have lost consciousness. A woman tries to help him up, but he falls back into the street.
The video, provided to KPIX 5 by Francesca Valdez of Fame Venue, shows more scenes of violence over the next few minutes. At one point, it appeared there were three fights in the middle of Broadway at the same time.
Then, right around 2:05 a.m., gunshots rang out. Witnesses told police they saw a man firing four shots into the air. Nobody was hurt.
"It's really crazy," said Valdez. "It's horrifying! It has to stop."
Valdez blames the violence on the nightclub next door, Club Hue, which has been in the hotseat with The San Francisco Entertainment Commission for some time.
After a flurry of fights last year, the commission told Hue's owner he had to stop all live music and DJ's at midnight instead of 2 a.m. on Saturday nights. Hue appealed, and that restriction was recently eased.
"They tried to give him another chance, and see what happened?" Valdez asked. "I don't think they should be open again."
Hue's owner, Bennett Montoya, said the fights are caused by a number of factors unrelated to Club Hue.
For example, a lot of other bars on the Broadway strip let out at the same time. Also, on weekend nights, many young people are just hanging out on Broadway outside clubs and in parking lots.
Montoya said it is often the case that fights begin in the parking lots and extend onto the sidewalks near Club Hue.
"These fights, a lot of them aren't even our patrons," Montoya said. "They could be people just walking down the street, hanging out. They could have left another restaurant or bar. Or they could have tried to come into our venue but we didn't let them in."
Then why are so many people blaming club Hue?
Montoya claims race is a factor. That's why he has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the San Francisco Police Department and the city of San Francisco.
"I believe that we are definitely being targeted and we are held to a higher standard than other businesses here ... because it is a place of color, " Montoya said. "In the words that have been spoken, that they don't want 'that crowd' here."
Hue's neighbors say no, they are not focused on race. Just the periodic fighting that always seems to break out near Club Hue.
"It has nothing to do with racial profiling," said Eric Roach, a manager at Fame Venue. "It has nothing to do with the music next door. It's just people having too much to drink and sprawling out and doing this type of stuff."
The Entertainment Commission said it made its decision to allow live music and DJs later on Saturday nights after a series of appeals by Hue were rejected. But then Hue complied with conditions imposed by the commission, said Maggie Weiland, Deputy Director of the San Francisco Entertainment Commission.
"The Entertainment Commission made a decision to partially lift the hours restriction based on the fact that the venue had proven compliance for over 6 months, had made and completed a sound attenuation plan and had communicated their findings and changes with surrounding neighbors," said Weiland. "On February 6, the EC changed Hue's hours of entertainment to Sunday's-Thursday's until 12 a.m., Fridays until 1 a.m. and Saturday's until 2 a.m. The Commission kept the condition regarding added employees including security in the bottle service area. "
As for the violence on St. Patrick's Day weekend, Montoya said in a statement that Club Hue is working with police to help solve the crimes.
"Club Hue contacted the SFPD, the CBD, and Entertainment Commission to make sure that the Club's security cameras and security personnel (the best in San Francisco) were available to help address the investigation of what occurred," Montoya said.
"None of the Clubs contributed to the incident or could have predicted what happened," Montoya's statement continued. "Further, the gunshots, while extremely unsettling, were separate from the parking lot fight in both location, and timing. We did, and continue to do, all the suggested neighborhood safety protocols and we exceeded the security protocols dictated in our security plan, which has been shared with the SFPD."
The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is looking into the matter, said John Carr of the ABC.
"ABC is concerned about the violence and is aware of the recent incidents you have referenced and are actively looking into them," Carr said. "ABC has been in contact with the San Francisco Police about the most current activity. We work with them on or near ABC licensed premises to make things as safe as possible."
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