For the past few years, Hue Nightclub claims that it has been the target of an ongoing campaign by the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) to close or bankrupt the club. This explosive accusation coincides with a civil-rights lawsuit recently filed by Bennett Montoya, the club’s owner.
In the filing, Montoya is accusing the city and two officers of participating in a discriminatory campaign, targeting the club because of its hip-hop programming and black clientele. The accusation stems back to an incident on December 13, 2014, where multiple fights allegedly broke out inside Hue, involving a woman and two black men with concealed firearms. As things escalated, the police report indicates that somebody shouted, “They got guns.” In the days that followed, SFPD argued that the incident warranted stiff penalties.
Strangely, no club staff or security working that night have any recollection of the incident. After reviewing the security footage, Montoya couldn’t find any evidence of a fight or a person with a gun. Furthermore, an Entertainment Commission inspector from City Hall concluded that the incident did not take place. Lastly, the police witness’ story fell apart in court, with the judge striking his testimony from the record.
Since 2014, SFPD has urged city nightlife regulators at the Entertainment Commission to revoke Hue’s entertainment permit. It separately challenged Hue’s liquor license through the State Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC). SFPD, influential politicos and neighborhood groups, have characterized Hue as a mismanaged, violence-prone blight upon Broadway’s reforming nightlife scene.
In July 2018, an ABC Appeals Board decision supported Montoya’s view that the police are unfairly targeting Hue. Evidence presented at a board hearing established that Hue was “singled out for unique surveillance and enforcement”, blamed for “more than its fair share” of incidents on the block, and that the reason for this treatment was “the desire of [former Central Station Captain David Lazar] and the SFPD to reduce African-American patronage of [Hue] by eliminating hip-hop music.”
So, while the ABC Appeals Board’s decision is being appealed, Montoya says he feels vindicated because it shows that “in a legal forum, we can prove the [SFPD] lies.” Beyond the appeal, the civil-rights lawsuit against SFPD’s officers looms large. A win or favorable settlement would go a long way to right some of the wrongs that have turned Montoya’s world upside down and hopefully inspire us all to stand our ground when the system is corrupted.
Hue Nightclub and Lounge
447 Broadway Street, San Francisco
Source: KQED Arts – Photo Credits: Top Image: huesf.com, 2nd Image: Google Maps, 3rd Image: Former SFPD Central Station Captain David Lazar in 2017 via San Francisco Entertainment Commission / Granicus