City Attorney works with SFPD to protect public health and prevent illegal gathering during pandemic
SAN FRANCISCO (March 25, 2020) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced today that he has directed the property owner of a club venue to cancel an illegal party scheduled for Friday, March 27 because of the threat it poses to public health during the coronavirus pandemic.
The City Attorney’s Office is working in partnership with the San Francisco Police Department to enforce the March 16 shelter-in-place public health order from San Francisco County Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón. The order is designed to slow the spread of the virus so that hospitals are not overwhelmed with patients. The order, among other things, prohibits all private and public gatherings of any number of people, except for certain exceptions for carefully defined essential activities. This party is not an exception.
In open defiance of that order, rogue event promoter Set San Francisco has been selling tickets for a March 27 party titled “Lehar (Multinotes, Diynamic, Afterlife)” at an event space at 251 Rhode Island Street. The promoter has advertised online that 200 tickets can be sold, and was offering tickets as recently as this morning on its own website as well as on Eventbrite for prices ranging from $5 for “guest list” purchasers to $780 for a package of tickets with a “VIP booth” and two “premium bottles.” The tickets are listed as nonrefundable.
“There have been many acts of decency, kindness and quiet heroism as San Franciscans try to keep their neighbors safe during this pandemic. This party, unfortunately, isn’t one of them,” Herrera said. “How someone acts in a crisis says a lot about them. The individuals behind this party have either completely failed in their responsibility to the public, are engaged in a cynical scheme to rip off people knowing this event will never happen, or are putting lives at risk in a dangerous attempt to profit off a public health emergency. All of those are unacceptable. Putting 200 people together in a club is the exact wrong thing to do right now. It would create a powder keg for this virus to explode across our communities. We’re not about to let that happen.”
“Local businesses have been overwhelmingly cooperative with the shelter in place orders now in effect, and most San Franciscans know that social distancing isn’t solely necessary to protect their own life and safety — it’s to protect everyone’s,” said San Francisco Police Chief William Scott. “Unfortunately, it appears there may be scofflaws who either don’t know or don’t care. Today’s preemptive move by City Attorney Dennis Herrera sends a strong message to any would-be wrongdoer that City agencies are working in close coordination to enforce the emergency order and protect public health.”
While representations have been made to the Police Department that the event has been cancelled, it was still being marketed online and tickets were still being sold for it as recently as this morning. The responsible thing to do, Herrera said, was for the promoter to remove the online listings, notify everyone who purchased a ticket that the event has been cancelled and refund them their money.
Herrera sent a letter on March 24 to the owner of the property, 251 Rhode Island Street LLC, ordering the event to be cancelled and promotions for it to stop. The letter also seeks information about the party organizers. The letter notes that the property owner is responsible for any violations that take place on the property.
Failure to comply with the public health order during an emergency is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment of up to a year, or both. California Penal Code section 409.5 authorizes the City to close down properties constituting a menace to public health and makes it a misdemeanor for any individual to knowingly and willfully enter such property.
If the owner fails to cancel the event, they will be liable for the violations as well as any civil penalties, and all costs for enforcement.