Saturday July 4th was a great day to be out-and-about in the San Francisco Bay Area. A tradition shared by my friends and I – and thousands of others – is to attend the Fillmore Jazz Festival, which is a good 10 blocks of music, food, and fun. One of the favorite stops along the stretch is Harry’s Bar, which serves up a great combination of beautiful people dancing and socializing to funk and rock music. After hanging with friends inside, a group of us ventured outside as it was just too hot. I came back later, but after perhaps a few minutes inside, determined that the outdoor weather was better.
I go to Harry’s each year with the same group of friends – except we didn’t see Monte Poole this year – so I’m used to the vibe during the festival. I give the staff a lot of credit for keeping the crowd at a manageable level; not that it was ever out of control in the past, or this year for that matter. But in past years one could not even pass through the place with ease; not so on Saturday. The relative calm of the party made the incident I’m about to explain all the more, well, weird.
There was a patron that was giving the Bouncer and the patrons inside a real hard time as the video will show; a guy with a “3″ on his back. At first I ignored him and talked to my fellow Oakland friend on the curb, but given the way he was behaving – at first taunting the bouncer to fight, but then more and more relentlessly so – I could not do so. I activated my camera and just stood on the curb holding it up.
The Bouncer had told the patron to leave as he had too much to drink, was beligerent, and had been given a number of warnings. For a beat, it actually looked like “Number 3″ (as I will call him) was going to just walk away. But something happened – for some reason it was really important for him to get back in the bar – and he started to ask the bouncer “Are you black or white” (the bouncer’s black as is the patron), and he repeated the question again and again. The bouncer said “As long as you stay back away from the door you can say anything.” For many of the onlookers, the patron was a source of comic relief; a woman walked up and started dancing sexily behind “Number 3″. We kept saying “Turn around. It’s more fun behind you.” But he didn’t. Number 3 was locked in on the person he believed to be his tormentor: the Bouncer.
There were several voices asking for someone to call the police, and another voice said “they’ve been called.” (Don’t know if there were any Twitter tweets at the time.) Still the police never came. The bouncer asked for the police to be called. Nothing. Not even security. At that point, “Number 3″ decided to violate the space the bouncer told him to avoid and pointed his finger right in the bouncer’s face. To me, it seemed like he was about to hit the bouncer. So the Bouncer took a look at his partner, and then kind of grabbed him and put him into a hold, and as soon as he had him on the ground said “I’m going to hold him until the police arrive.”
The sudden, wild mix of emotions was dizzying: one man upset with the bouncer and another upset with the man who was upset with the bouncer, and a woman sitting on a stoop calmly looking at the weirdly intertwined pair only to ask “Are you going to kill him?” “No” the Bouncer said, “I’m trying to hold him until the police get here.”
Festival security did arrive after a few minutes and they helped the Bouncer escort Number 3 away from the venue, and to the appalause of the onlookers.
On my YouTube page, the comments seems to run mostly to the defense of the bouncer. Someone took issue with the use of the hold – what someone called a sleeper hold – but the Bouncer seemed to take great pains to make sure Number 3 could breath. He was trying to hold him.
Personally, given Number 3′s behavior, I’m not sure the Bouncer had too many choices; that guy was going to do something. If the Bouncer let him back in Harry’s it’s almost certain he would have got into a fight with someone there. Me? I’m not one for violence at all but I understand the actions the Bouncer took; I think festival security should have been there much faster to clear Number 3 away. Given that they were on call for that event, and the day was coming to a close, the Bouncer really should have had some help from festival security.
The new pattern of violence in Sf’s bar districts
I and others have noticed a violent male patronage out and about in areas of San Francisco one would not expect to see them: the Marina District and Pacific Heights, where Harry’s Bar is located are two examples. Just over a week ago a man fired a gun on San Francisco police at a Marina hotel, and over at one establishment on the corner of Fillmore and Greenwich known for its dance floor, some have complained that certain men are just there to start fights and its only a matter of time before someone pulls a gun. It seems the problems of nightclub violence that have plagued the Mission, Tenderloin, North Beach, and The South of Market, are now almost everywhere in San Francisco.
That’s a good question I can’t answer here. But I will return to do so in the near future.