It’s not that they don’t like parties, the artists around Alabama and Mariposa want to emphasize. It’s that they don’t like guns at parties.
The two men who hit one window, six cars and one person last Sunday morning while trying, and failing, to shoot each other have both been arrested. In addition to their criminal charges, everyone affected by the gunfight will most likely be suing them for damages. According to Albie Esparza of SFPD media relations, the men’s motive remains unknown.
“It was like a blitz,” said one resident of Developing Environments, an artists’ live work/space nearby. “They were running down the street shooting at each other, like something in a movie. There was caution tape over our front door. There were so many shells in the street that the cops couldn’t count them all.”
But the question of Circolo’s role in the shooting remains open. The high-end but frequently deserted Asian fusion restaurant had been renting its space out on Saturday nights for parties thrown by a variety of promoters.
Increasingly, neighbors told Mission Loc@l, the parties were getting wild. It brought back memories of the nightclub Whisper, where two patrons were once shot in the leg after a fight that started on the dance floor, and another patron shot a bullet through Circolo’s window. Whisper was closed in 2009.
The neighborhood, said Debra Walker, an artist who lives at Developing Environments, doesn’t have much foot traffic after nightfall. When a nightclub closes for the night, “Suddenly there’s 200 drunk people dumping out onto the street at once. They get into their cars, do donuts in the intersection. They keep partying.”
The evening of the shooting, a company called DS Entertainment was throwing a party inside the space. The website for DS Entertainment shows events scheduled for the next two Saturdays, but Walker and other sources at Project Artaud and Developing Environments report that Jon Mayeda, co-owner of Circolo, met with a group of residents a few days after the shooting and told them otherwise.
He told the group that he’d previously been sued for racial discrimination in banning certain promoters, but that he had canceled all future events from DS Entertainment. He did not, as he had previously, offer to compensate neighbors who had sustained damage caused by Circolo’s late-night clientele. He also told the group that he’d canceled weekend events at the restaurant. When further pressed, he clarified: He’d canceled weekend events at the restaurant until the end of April.
Mayeda could not be reached for comment, but according to Jamie Zawinski, owner of the DNA Lounge, and Derek Hena, who books acts for Mighty, the venue, rather than the promoter, is responsible for security. “A promoter is responsible for hiring the talent, advertising and generally doing all the magic that causes customers to show up,” wrote Zawinski in an email. “After all, it is the *venue’s* name on all the permits, liquor licenses, etc., not the promoter’s. If a disaster happens, the promoter walks away free and the venue gets screwed.”
Both Hena and Zawinski say that a background check — especially calling venues where promoters have hosted events in the past — is critical. Mighty also forbids top-40 music and restricts promoters from advertising events in certain ways.
“We won’t allow promoters to do radio promotions,” said Hena. “We really have gotten away from paper fliers. We aim more for the demographic that looks for things online.”
Hena once worked at Mezzanine, a venue that tried to do without promoters entirely and suffered for it. “It’s difficult to do things all by yourself,” he said. “You have to rely on them.” He estimates that of the 10 or so events that Mighty throws every month, eight are organized by promoters.
It remains uncertain how much, if any, connection Circolo had to the shooting. The 500 block of Florida, where the shooting happened, has a history of many, many police calls.
“In this case,” said Walker, “I don’t think it was connected to the club.” Many groups are drawn to the relative isolation of the area, she said, especially since the gang injunction left a significant swath of the Mission out of bounds for people identified by the police department as Norteños.
“I believe in entertainment,” said Walker, repeating a statement frequently expressed by neighbors, many of whom also emphasized a specific fondness for parties that aren’t exactly legal. “It’s violence that’s the issue.”
“This neighborhood is full of theaters. It’s full of gallery space. There are hundreds of artists who would eat there.”
“I do think having a good club in the neighborhood makes it safer,” she added. “Otherwise there’s no one here but people breaking into our cars.”