Commission Delays Vote on Slovenian Hall Permit
The San Francisco Entertainment Commission tabled a vote last month on Slovenian Hall’s application to serve as an entertainment venue. The Commission postponed action pending a Planning Department determination that the hall’s activities are legal, non-conforming uses under municipal code, but heard comments from people about the application. The 88-year old hall, which opened long before San Francisco had an Entertainment Commission, has been operating without a permit since 2002.
“We want to do everything to be a good neighbor,” said attorney Thomas J. Brandi, who was representing the Slovenian Hall and the nation of Slovenia. “There’s no reason we can’t co-exist.” Brandi said he’s willing to talk to neighbors who have concerns about how the hall operates. “I’m sure these things are easily fixable,” Brandi added. According to Brandi, the venue has no more than 30 events a year, two-thirds of which are related to the Slovenian community.
According to Hill resident, Doug Palmer, in general the hall has been a good neighbor. But it tends to hold events with extended hours. “I’m going to lobby for some restrictions to their permit,” he said. A Vermont Street resident said that although she doesn’t want to hurt the Slovenian community, the neighborhood is concerned about safety, security, and the hall’s hours of operation. She said bottles end up in the street and cars get scratched and dented after events. The resident also complained that the permit notice was posted on the hall’s second floor; she needed binoculars to see it. And she said the hall’s members didn’t talk to enough of their neighbors before making their application.
A place of entertainment permit is typically required for fixed-place venues that hire a disc jockey and/or have live entertainment, according to the Entertainment Commission’s website. If the venue will be open to the public after 2 a.m., it likely needs an extended hours permit. The hall will have to pass building, electrical and sound inspections, as well as assessments from the San Francisco Public Health and Fire departments, and will need to present a security plan, before a permit is issued. The San Francisco Police Department “will weigh in on security conditions,” said Nicolas King, the Commission’s deputy director.
After the meeting, Dennis Brahney, who serves on the hall’s board of directors, said there have been some problems with people disturbing the neighborhood after they leave the venue. According to Brahney, the hall has to rent to responsible people, and perhaps those who aren’t too young. “We have to work on our system a bit,” Brahney said. People are supposed to leave before 2 a.m., he told the commission. Brahney said that the Slovenians need to rent the hall to pay the building’s bills. Otherwise it won’t exist. The hall is “a cultural heartbeat of a small community,” Brandi said. He added that Alcoholic Anonymous meetings are held at the space, and people receive language lessons, among other gatherings.
Diane Brahney, Dennis’ wife, said she grew up on the Hill and at the hall, where she and her husband were married 51 years ago. She said the hall was a Pacific Gas and Electric Company substation before the Slovenian’s bought and remodeled it. When the freeway came and people moved away, they still came back to the hall to get together. “It’s an institution,” she said.
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