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Owner of Shuttered S.F. Bar Blames Rampant Neighborhood Street Crime

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- Across the street from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and next to the San Francisco Federal Building is the now-closed Mr. Smith's bar. The bar owner, Max Young, shuttered the place Sept. 1, after 15 years of operation.

"I'm dealing with organized drug dealers on my corner every day," Young told KPIX.

A San Francisco native, Young acknowledges that the neighborhood where Mr. Smith's is located, "was never Disneyland." But, he said, "in the last four to five years it's gotten so much worse."

Indeed, while a KPIX reporter and photographer interviewed Young at the now-empty bar on Seventh Street near Market Street, several drug deals took place outside the door in plain sight.

"This is what it's like every single day. When I ask them to move, they basically say, 'screw you.' They know nothing will happen to them," Young said.

After people buy drugs, many immediately consume them, so the sidewalks nearby are dotted with drug-addled and unconscious people.

"When my bartender is trying to come in and open the bar but they can't because someone is passed out in the doorway, it's hard to keep morale up," said Young.

Customers are similarly disinclined to walk past the dealers and users to get to the bar. The result, says Young: "I haven't made money out of this place in probably close to a year."

He wants the people who are addicted to drugs to get help and for dealers to be prosecuted.

"I don't know the details of where the breakdown in the situation is," he says. "I do know the police are working their tails off and so it's not there."

Despite frequent arrests, drug dealers are a common sight.

Mayor London Breed acknowledged that drug dealing in the area is "a constant challenge" and, among other things, it's because "we haven't built enough housing." Also, "there hasn't been a lot of accountability" for the people breaking the law.

"That's important -- to make sure that we have a district attorney's office that's addressing these issues," Mayor Breed said.

According to a district attorney spokesman, between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018, San Francisco police made about two arrests for drug dealing each day. Eighty-six percent of those arrests were prosecuted, with nearly all spending some time in jail. The dealers, however, often have only a small amount of drugs on their person, so courts are reluctant to incarcerate them for long.

Young just wants the area to be safe enough to re-open Mr. Smith's. "What we're doing now isn't working. I know that."

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