City Attorney, SFPD shut down illegal nightclub operating during pandemic

Surveillance video shows more than 150 people streaming into illegal nightclub over 48 hours, endangering public health and threatening to spread coronavirus

City Attorney Dennis Herrera

SAN FRANCISCO (April 13, 2020) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Police Chief William Scott announced today that they have shut down an underground nightclub after an investigation revealed illegal gatherings there in violation of public health orders requiring bars and nightclubs to close to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Herrera secured a civil inspection and abatement warrant from a judge on Friday, April 10, 2020 to shut down the illegal club for violating San Francisco’s stay-at-home public health order. It is the first such warrant issued in San Francisco to enforce the public health order. That night, San Francisco Police Department officers stationed patrol cars in front of the building, which deterred would-be patrons arriving in cars, taxis, and ride-hailing vehicles from entering. The next day, Saturday, April 11, officers from SFPD’s Tactical Unit and Bayview Station executed the warrant, entered the building and seized DJ equipment, two fog machines, nine gambling machines with $670 in cash inside, two pool tables, bins of liquor, cases of beer, bar furniture, and other nightclub-related items.

The illegal club had been operating out of an industrial building at 2266 Shafter Avenue in San Francisco’s Bayview district. As one step to help slow the spread of the highly contagious virus, bars, nightclubs and other entertainment venues are not allowed to operate under an order San Francisco Health Officer Dr. Tomas Aragon issued on March 16 and expanded on March 31.

“This pandemic is deadly serious. People need to treat it that way,” Herrera said. “Education is always the first step, but willfully ignoring health orders is not acceptable. We are going to use every tool at our disposal, including these types of warrants, to protect public health during this pandemic. Cramming dozens of people into an illegal club during this outbreak is like dropping a lit match in the woods during fire season. Who knows how far the damage will spread? It’s the epitome of irresponsibility. I want to thank Chief Scott and the men and women of the San Francisco Police Department for their partnership and swift action to protect public health.  I also want to thank the owner of this property for looking out for public safety, fully cooperating in this investigation, and putting public health first.”

“The operators of this illegal club senselessly put lives at risk in a time when our city is doing everything within our means to slow the spread of this pandemic and safeguard the health and wellbeing of the public,” said Chief William Scott. “Let this case be a reminder that we will take action against those who knowingly violate the public health order and endanger the health and safety of our residents.”

The City Attorney’s Office recently learned that the tenant of 2266 Shafter Avenue was operating an illegal nightclub. A subsequent investigation produced a time-lapse video from April 4, 2020 to April 6, 2020, which showed more than 150 people entering and exiting the building during the early morning hours. None practiced six feet of social distancing. During certain times, the video showed 20 to 30 cars per hour park or depart from in front of the building.

During the early morning hours of April 8, 2020, a City Attorney’s Office investigator observed multiple cars coming and going from the property, and groups of people not practicing social distancing entering. Loud music could be heard emanating from inside. This was consistent with information obtained as part of the investigation, which showed that on two different nights in March 2020 more than 100 people a night entered and exited the building. At that time, loud music was heard and strobe lights were observed within the building when the door was opened.  Security guards were also seen frisking each visitor at that time.

A witness interviewed by the City Attorney’s Office said they heard five gunshots in rapid succession near the club at around 3:15 a.m. on March 15, 2020, and that activity on the nights of April 4 and April 5, 2020 was particularly raucous.  These prior incidents are under investigation by SFPD.

Beyond concerns about the virus spreading among patrons and those they come in contact with later, this particular building is not even permitted for entertainment uses. It lacks proper sprinklers, fire alarms and exits for a building open to the public, according to the attorney for the property owner. According to court documents, the tenant operating the club had told the property owner he was using the building to store materials for his janitorial company.

If you have information about businesses or others violating the stay-at-home order during this public health emergency, please contact 311. You can find more information about what to do here.

View the surveillance video of more than 150 people entering 2266 Shafter Avenue here.