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Friday, April 4, 2008

Re: Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

posted by on April 4 at 13:23 PM

Sorry, Ari, I gotta disagree here.

The cops aren’t just showing up at Capitol Hill nightclubs for fun. We’ve asked SPD to make their presence known on the hill, and they’re responding to that.

Sure, the large number of gay-bashings and random murders in the last year or so aren’t necessarily associated with nightclubs, but there has also been plenty of club related violence.

In fact, the first two stories I wrote for The Stranger were about nightclub-related violence on Capitol Hill.

Since then, there have been a number of shootings in or around nightclubs. That’s not to say the clubs were necessarily at fault, but having cops around might deter jackasses with guns from spraying up a dance floor. And not to be a total alarmist, but there’s also this to consider.

Club owners have every right to complain if a heavy police presence is hurting their business. However, the cops are trying to be pro-active rather than reactive. The decibel meter thing is total bullshit, but since you and I both know that there are clubs up here that don’t have the greatest security and/or are regularly over-crowded, cops have good reason to keep checking up on these places. I’d rather our police force do something pro-active, rather than wait around for someone else to get shot.

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I don't buy it. Why are they hanging out at clubs that don't have a history of problems?

AND, they're focusing on fucking NOISE which isn't a criminal issue, but a quality of life issue.

And the bashings have been occuring AWAY from the clubs after closing. I'd much rather see those resources employed with increasing patrolling of the STREETS and not the clubs themselves, if the clubs aren't contributing to the problem.

Posted by michael strangeways | April 4, 2008 1:32 PM


Posted by Mr. Poe | April 4, 2008 1:33 PM

Oh that reminds case the Seattle Fire Department is reading this...I was forced to go to The War Room the other Saturday and it was SO CROWDED, I could not believe my eyes. Not fun. And NOT safe. They have a lot of bouncers and are well regulated, but that won't help during a fire. It was ridiculous.

Posted by Corliss | April 4, 2008 1:35 PM

SPD on the lookout for fire safety issues? Puh-leeze, they don't even bother to enforce their end of the smoking ban.

Posted by nothankye | April 4, 2008 1:41 PM

I think we can agree that the rate of proactivity is a little out of hand. Do the police need to be in Neumo's at a rate of 2-3 times a week? Some weeks that's every time they open their doors. Do they need to be in Havana every night, and sometimes up to four times on weekends?

I know we asked for proactivity, but there has to be a better solution that isn't as ominous as uniformed officers walking around with little meters. And let's not forget about the fourth amendment--looking for problems where there may or not be any, on private property, is distinctly unconstitutional and may actually hurt the chances of any cases these patrols might bring to court.

Posted by Ari Spool | April 4, 2008 1:44 PM

#1: I agree. Why not re-task these officers with patrolling the Pike/Pine area on the sidewalks (public property) around closing time? That's when any real issues happen, and it puts the focus on where the problems occur more often. That's what the cops in Belltown and Pioneer Square do. Why isn't Capitol Hill getting that treatment?

Posted by Ari Spool | April 4, 2008 1:48 PM

some people are just never fucking happy.

Posted by Rotten666 | April 4, 2008 1:52 PM

The 4th Amendment? Seriously, Ari, you think cops checking up on a club should require a search warrant?

Posted by elenchos | April 4, 2008 1:53 PM

If people are following the laws it shouldn't matter if the cops are there or not. If someone gets shot in front of the Baltic Room again, the community is gonna be up in arms. You wanna do illegal shit, do it at home in comfort. I used to enjoy going out in this town but then I started realizing I don't want to be surrounded by a bunch of emo coke heads in tight black pants. And usually the music at my place is better anyway.

Posted by bored4life | April 4, 2008 2:01 PM

If people are following the laws it shouldn't matter if the cops are there or not. If someone gets shot in front of the Baltic Room again, the community is gonna be up in arms. You wanna do illegal shit, do it at home in comfort. I used to enjoy going out in this town but then I started realizing I don't want to be surrounded by a bunch of emo coke heads in tight black pants. And usually the music at my place is better anyway.

Posted by bored4life | April 4, 2008 2:02 PM

the problem is the disconnect.

someone is beat up on capitol hill, and so the cops show up and ask a club to turn down the volume.

it's be like if cars were being vandalized on a certain 2hr zoned street, so they increased ticketing cars that stayed longer than two hours.

they are missing the point. they either think that to way to safer streets is by shutting down (or sanitizing beyond recognition) all clubs. or they aren't focusing correctly.

this isn't cake/eat. this is we want our cake and we don't want criminals or cops to eat it up.

Posted by infrequent | April 4, 2008 2:03 PM

Ummm, isn't that cake/eat then? Perhaps if Ari would quit acting like a bratty teenager (are you a teenager?) then perhaps people wouldn't talk down to you. You should really step back and see how idealistic and ignorant your position is.

Posted by Bill | April 4, 2008 2:06 PM

#8: I just think they should be reminded that it exists.

The police are looking for problems, finding fairly few, and still continuing to look for problems where there aren't any. They are using the excuse of past violence to try to penalize clubs for noise complaints--the penalty will be $1000 for the first citation starting June 1, and it seems like they are warming up to get these guys good. It's unecessary, and it's going to drive places under if it's not reigned in.

Posted by Ari Spool | April 4, 2008 2:08 PM

Ari, the fourth amendment doesn't apply here. It's a licensed business that's open to the public, not a private residence, and it's perfectly legal for the cops to perform inspections. I agree that they're leaning on businesses that aren't well known for being "problem clubs" but I don't think this kind of vitriolic criticism is the way to go about fixing what's a pretty simple problem.

Posted by Jonah S | April 4, 2008 2:10 PM

Jonathan, you're joking right? You're not actually naive enough to associate the violence at a dance club night like Sugars with what happens at a live music venue like Neumo's, etc, are you? Your argument sounds like one of the whacky neighborhood activists. You're a journalist who usually pay more attention to the subtlety in your arguments than this.

The SPD harassment of live music venues has nothing to do with the legitimate request from Cap Hill residents for a better police response to violent attacks happening on the street. The SPD is ticketing people for incidents like a patron setting a beer on a stage, claiming it violates some long forgotten State Liquor Law about performers not being allowed to drink on stage. The SPD is attempting to enforce Fire Code, Liquor Laws and health codes, and with no knowledge or experience of these rules, nor backing from the appropriate relevant departments, use them to harass live music venues.

We saw a similar thing in the early 1990's when the SPD applied the teen dance ordinance to live music, and also temporarily closed venues using obscure building codes (hinges swing the wrong way, wall sockets wired wrong, etc). Now it's obscure liquor laws that don't fall under their job descriptions to enforce, and noise.

The reality is that the Mayor has lost control of the SPD and City Attorney. The SPD and City Attorney are working together to drive nightclubs and live music venues out of the city. Hopefully the Mayor's recent trip to Austin where he saw how a supportive local government can create a healthy, thriving music community, will help him take back control of this city which has once again become insanely anti-music.

And the SPD should get busy protecting cap hill residents from criminals, not from music they consider to be noise.

Posted by Meinert | April 4, 2008 2:11 PM

The 9th Amendment exists too but it has no more relevance to this issue than the 4th. The 9th Amendment is the bomb, by the way, and I like reminding everyone about it.

I don't agree with the noise violations and I think they should cut it out. Same for the other kind of BS ticketing that Meinert mentions. But I like seeing cops and I don't feel intimated by them. If people who are uncomfortable around cops stay out of the clubs, good.

Posted by elenchos | April 4, 2008 2:18 PM

@15 Wow, quite holier than thou for "live music" vs those dirty clubs. It's cute how you can so cleanly separate the two into completely different camps.

Ari, my apologies, you're in fact 22 years old. Carry on.

Posted by Bill | April 4, 2008 2:19 PM

Gonna have to side with Meinert on this one, even though he owes me a drink.

Posted by Mr. Poe | April 4, 2008 2:24 PM

@15: Meinert, I agree with you. That being said, the mayor and council haven't controlled the Police Chief (Remember WTO) or City Attorney (remember Mark Sidran) for years. It's time to put some people in there that don't have their head up their ass. A good start would be getting rid of Kerlikowske. Another good thing would be to revamp the LCB. That state entity is a joke with old cronies appointed to oversee what is an syatem that is stupid.

As for the clubs expecting help from Mayor McCheese... I wouldn't count on it. He has the fortitude of a stinky brie.

BTW, I am in NY partaking in its club/bar scene. I had forgotten how good it can be...

Posted by Dave Coffman | April 4, 2008 2:25 PM

People who complain about police around here should live in Vegas sometimes and deal with Metro. You have not idea how good you have it.

Posted by Jay | April 4, 2008 2:27 PM

People complaining about police presence in Seattle should live in Vegas for a while and deal with Metro. You have no idea how good you have it.

Posted by Jay | April 4, 2008 2:29 PM

Your first post was sufficient, Jay.

Posted by Mr. Poe | April 4, 2008 2:30 PM

Mayor McCheese is the King of the Anti-Nightlife movement in Seattle and the cops and the D.A. are his loyal disciples when it comes to this. Late night venues cause problems and they cause noise and they upset the developers trying to sell overpriced condos to aging boomers and their bland offsping who like to go to bed by 11pm and don't enjoy having the young, the colored and the fagtastic hooting and hollering on their newly regentrified streets; it's that simple.

and I'm delighted to see, that "Mayor McCheese" is catching on...I've been using it for months hoping it catches on...

Posted by michael strangeways | April 4, 2008 2:35 PM

jay obviously never heard of the old, "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" rule.

Posted by michael strangeways | April 4, 2008 2:45 PM

@19: Just don't run afoul of the cabaret laws that have been over-enforced since the Guliani regime.

Posted by Dawgson | April 4, 2008 2:48 PM

Jay sounds like a total loser. Let's laugh at him! HAHAHAHAHA!

Posted by Mr. Poe | April 4, 2008 2:48 PM

My data says that Las Vegas is very similar to Seattle in that the police force is relatively small and the violent crime rate is relatively low. But Vegas also has a low non-violent crime rate, whereas Seattle's non-violent crime is up there with Kansas City and Dallas.

Posted by elenchos | April 4, 2008 2:55 PM

Meinert has said it best. Police presence is a good thing. By merely making themselves visible, it can help deter people from doing bad things. However, police presence can easily become a bad thing when it becomes a pretext to find some BS reasons to ticket clubs and their patrons. That sort of "presence" is not in the service of public safety, it reeks of selective enforcement and harassment.

Posted by rexmundane | April 4, 2008 3:05 PM

@16 I'm not uncomfortable around cops, I'm just saying that if I'm seeing uniformed police officers multiple times inside a club where I'm hanging out I'm not thinking to myself "oh, they are here about the noise, or that beer bottle on the stage" no I'm thinking "what sort of serious crap must be going on here to keep bringing them out?" Maybe it's because I'm not used to the whole "proactive" police thing. When I see police I think something bad has happened.

Posted by PopTart | April 4, 2008 3:11 PM

Johah @14: The Fourth Amendment applies EVERYWHERE!

Posted by DOUG. | April 4, 2008 3:11 PM

meinert usually says things better than i can.

Posted by infrequent | April 4, 2008 3:27 PM

with the amount of drugs coming in and out of Havana there should be cops there every day.

Posted by tan | April 4, 2008 3:38 PM

I think the Tipping Point between people getting shot or not definitely lies somewhere in the 57-67 decibel range. Those sound guys are the real enemy, just think if the Baltic Room sound system had been slightly quieter that particular night...

Posted by Abe | April 4, 2008 4:01 PM

Okay, a couple things here:

First off, you should understand that this is in part a pre-emptive effort by the East Precinct to show that they can regulate nightclubs just fine, thank you, under the current laws and don't need the Mayor butting with a nightlife ordinance they don't want to get stuck wasting even more of their time enforcing! (Talk to some cops off-record about it Ari, you'll see.)

Given the choice between having to get and maintain a nebulous "Nightlife License" (one that can be revoked, at will, by the city for voilations as small as litter outside the club) or just having a couple cops walk through your club a few times a week, I think just about every thoughtful club owner would choose the later.

I have a unique perspective on this because I work the door at a club on the Hill (the War Room). I've been doing that on the Hill for nearly ten years now and this really is nothing new at all.

The Police come by our club most nights of the week. At the War Room we've worked to have a good relationship with them (after a very rocky beginning) and really never have any problems from them now. They don't harass either us or our patrons. And when there is a problem and we need their help, they have our back `cuz they know us.

Personally I think it's great that O'Neil & Gallagher are out, hitting the clubs and makin' the scene along side the hipsters. It gives them a chance to do real-live, meet-n-great community policing with people out on the Hill: our patrons.

And, com'on Ari -- if you've talked to him, you gotta know that O'Neil great face for the SPD to put forward in the community right now. (Off the record, he's a laugh riot!)

The sad thing is really just that it's been so very, very, very long since the SPD did authentic, honest-to-god community policing that now, when they actually do, everyone is just freaking-out "`cuz the cops are around" now, instead of off eating donunts somewhere else.

Posted by Tim Rhodes | April 4, 2008 4:36 PM

I've always wondered - who wants their cake and does NOT want to eat it as well?

Is it supposed to be normal to want cake and not eat it?

Such a weird saying.

Posted by just wondering | April 4, 2008 7:13 PM

If you eat your cake, it's gone. You no longer have it cause you ate it. But if you want to have it, then you can't eat it.

I think it should have been "Keep your cake and eat it too" but keep and have do actually have overlapping meanings. That one always bugged me too.

Posted by elenchos | April 4, 2008 7:38 PM

I've been wondering about "performers not being allowed to drink on stage." I cannot find this anywhere in the liquor licensee handbook nor on the online site I have been told by a club owner that entertainers are considered "ambassadors" of the club by the LCB. (There is also nothing in the law mentioning ambassadors.) The only reference to non-stripping entertainers I can even find is the rules surrounding under 21 performers, who obviously can't drink onstage or off. So is this a valid law or not? Are the LCB just interpreting performers as "employees" in order to write up a bunch of tickets?

Posted by threnody | April 4, 2008 8:33 PM

@37: (re: No drinks on stage)

In this state, drinking is only allowed on what's known as the "licensed areas" of any establishment and no one under 21 is allowed in these areas. When a business applies for a liquor license they designate which parts of the establishment are to be "licensed" and which are not. (Which LCB then approves or doesn't.)

In, say, a restaurant like Smith that also has a lounge, the lounge might be designated as the area licensed for liquor -- no one under 21 allowed there -- and the rest of the restaurant might have the more general beer & wine or table-service licensing, so kids can be in the restaurant, but not within the lounge.

Now with music venues often times the stage is NOT designated as part of the licensed area of the club -- hence, no is booze allowed there.

Why would a club owner choose to do things that way, you ask? When they could just as easily have included the stage when they requested their license from the LCB?

The answer is actually pretty simple: underage performers.

If the stage is considered an "unlicensed" portion of the club, underage musicians and performers can play the venue. As long as they go straight from the door to the stage, stay on stage until they're done playing, and then go straight out the door afterwards, everything is legal and the club can host underage talent without jeopardizing their license. IF the stage is not a licensed part of the premises, that is.

(And remember, you can't drink in an unlicensed area of the club, right?)

So, yeah, the no drinking on stage thing might seem kinda dumb, but it's that whole cake and eating thing again:

You can either have people drink on stage at your venue or have a venue where underage performers are able to play when they come to town -- you just can't do both under the same WSLCB license here.

Posted by Tim Rhodes | April 5, 2008 4:27 AM

According to one WSLCB agent two weeks ago, he had received an email about one recent court case. It declared that DJ's, sound/light jocks, promoters and anyone else who functions on the bar's behalf are considered employees of the bar and thus not allowed to consume alcohol while on duty. I have not seen any memo or notice from WSLCB regarding this court case.

Anyone know which club was alledged to have been cited for drinks on the stage?

Posted by Daddy Jeff | April 5, 2008 4:35 AM

#39 - A DJ at Havana got ticketed for drinking. Not really a stage there, 21+ establishment.

Posted by MP | April 5, 2008 1:19 PM

#40 - MP, thanks for the update. The Cuff DJ's, light jock and coat check volunteers kinda shugged and are following the rules (no drinking while on duty).

Posted by Daddy Jeff | April 5, 2008 6:31 PM

Someone needs to take out Asst. Chief Linda Pierce.

Just saying.

Posted by Warren Pease | April 6, 2008 2:08 PM

Can someone look at all the club shootings and say went percentage happened on hip hop nights? Comment #1 asked:Why are they hanging out at clubs that don't have a history of problems?
The answer? They will be accused of victimizing a specific group of people, since although a hugely disproporiate amount of violence comes from the hip hop crowd to even acknowledge this makes a person vulnerable to accusations of racism.

Posted by jane doe | April 6, 2008 6:33 PM

@37 that makes no sense... you can drink in the "unlicensed" parts of smith, for instance. the employee thing makes a little more sense.

Posted by infrequent | April 7, 2008 9:13 AM

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