The Mission District will soon host one of the largest music venues in all San Francisco after a 4-2 vote on Tuesday at the Entertainment Commission awarded the Armory — headquarters of pornography company Kink.com — approval for a full entertainment permit.
Neighbors gave hours of testimony claiming the Armory’s transition from porn studio to full-time concert hall — capable of holding 4,000 people in its 40,000-square-foot interior drill court — would be unworkable for nearby residents. Residents said loud noise, unruly patrons, and past permit violations damaged their relationship with Kink.
“All four events in February have been blasting the neighborhood with sound,” said Brian Whitty, a nearby resident. “The revelation of unpermitted events in February raises real issues of trust and responsibility, and they should have known better.”
Three of four shows held this February were unpermitted by the city, and Kink representatives said on Tuesday that they went ahead with those shows because it would have cost them $300,000 to cancel contracts with concert promoters.
The commission planned on addressing the violations at Tuesday’s hearing, the deputy director of the commission told Mission Local last week, but no fines were issued for the unpermitted shows.
“You failed to give them a citation,” said Jason Perkins, the owner of nearby bar Crafty Fox and author behind a strongly-worded editorial that took aim at Kink events director and Entertainment Commissioner Audrey Joseph for alleged unethical behavior last year. Joseph recused herself from dealings between Kink and the city.
Perkins said the “only reason” the entertainment proposal for the Armory was as far along in the process as it was “is because a sitting Entertainment Commissioner was paid $100,000,” a reference to Joseph’s salary at Kink.
“It really brings into question who the Entertainment Commission is working for,” he said.
Bryant Tan, president of the commission, said Joseph had no involvement in the hearing process for the Armory’s entertainment permit.
“She has taken no part whatsoever in the commission’s consideration to grant this permit or not,” he said.
The permit awarded to Kink on Tuesday allows the company to host music events at the Armory seven days a week. The commission amended the permit to limit hours until 11 p.m. from Sunday to Wednesday, midnight on Thursdays, and 2 a.m. for Friday and Saturday shows.
The permit also comes with conditions that require that sound abatement at the building be completed and a security plan put in place before any concerts are scheduled. Kink promised last week that it would soundproof doors and windows and modify its sound system to prevent high levels of bass.
“We’ve been disturbed till two in the morning by at least four shows,” said Amanda Gregory, a nearby resident. “Our windows were rattling, we couldn’t go to sleep, we had to work the next day. It’s a little hard to trust that the armory will follow up with what they had to do.”
“These kids, when they pour down the block, they’ll come down Woodward [Street] and they’ll hang out literally all night,” said Tim Dietz, who lives on Woodward and supported granting the Armory an entertainment permit. Dietz said boozy patrons come out of the Armory and spend hours waiting for Bart to open back up.
“I suspect a lot of these kids are waiting for Bart in the morning and they’ll be making noise literally till 5 a.m.,” he said.
For its part, Kink said it would post a security guard on Woodward Street — a residential street across from the Armory where many neighbors complained of drunken patrons speaking loudly into the night — to monitor crowd dispersal after shows. Kink employs one guard per 100 patrons.
Peter Acworth, head of the porn studio, said he envisioned having the necessary renovations to the building done within three months and apologized for the unpermitted events.
“I apologize for those,” he said Tuesday. “That will never happen again and until this sound plan is put in place we’re not hosting anymore concerts. I’m committed to being a good neighbor.”
Kink has been seeking an entertainment permit for the Armory for months, hoping to open its interior drill court to concerts, raves, and other events that will help the company stay solvent. The Armory will still function as office space and a porn studio — its many subterranean rooms sets for Kink’s films — in other parts of the building.
The permit is supported by Supervisor Scott Wiener and some local businesses and had the support of Supervisor David Campos until he learned of February’s unpermitted events. He withdrew his support on Tuesday.
Sandra Davis, a Woodward Street resident who spoke against the permit, said the commission’s decision did not address the past violations and would not serve to ensure that Kink abided by its permit into the future.
“It’s disappointing,” she said. “It’s just letting them off with a slap on the wrist.”