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New Permit Regulates Outdoor Entertainment In San Francisco

The new permit that will regulate SF's outdoor entertainment will be issued by the Entertainment Commission. Photo courtesy of Cristi Tohatan.

SAN FRANCISCO—As part of the city of San Francisco’s reopening, a new permit announced by Mayor London Breed on Friday, Sept. 25, will regulate safe entertainment and amplified sound in outdoor spaces.

The “Just Add Music,” or JAM permit, will be administered by the Entertainment Commission and it seeks to help businesses, organizations and individuals to hold entertainment that follows healthy guidelines. Activities that would require the authorization include live music, performances, fashion shows, amplified speech, amplified sound without a performer and screenings with amplified sound.

Before this permit was launched, those who wanted to have outdoor entertainment in their businesses during the pandemic had the right to apply to 12 one-day permits in a year— that would could cost hundreds of dollars per day— or would have to go through an authorization process that sometimes required a hearing with the Entertainment Commission. The permit will now be free and businesses will have easier access to it. 

“The JAM permit program provides a free and streamlined pathway for the arts, entertainment, and nightlife sectors to support their business livelihoods by adding music and other cultural activity in a way that is safe and follows public health guidelines,” states a press release from the Mayor’s Office.

Several industries that rely on live entertainment have been financially impacted by COVID-19. According to a May 2020 survey made by the Entertainment Commission to 169 workers from the industry, almost half were concerned about needing to close their businesses because of hardships caused by the pandemic. More than half reported losing between 75 to 100 percent of their expected business and individual incomes for this year. Most of them worked at bars, live music venues and nightclubs. 

The goal of JAM is to provide these establishments with an opportunity to gain more revenue from safe, outdoor activities. It also aligns with the enhanced Shared Spaces program. 

Entertainers and businesses have reacted to the new permit program. Blake Pippett from BIX restaurant told the San Francisco News that he was not sure if they would be applying for the new authorization because hosting live entertainment in outdoor spaces can have complications.

“There’s still going to be more complications than just the permit from the city, as far as a place to put the musician, with a musical cover, or if the music doesn’t disturb neighbors,” said Pippett. “There’s complications, of course, but anything to try to keep our business going we’re going to appreciate.”

Their restaurant has been “massively” impacted by COVID-19 restrictions as they had to close for almost six months. He said that even if now they have outdoor dining options, they are at a limited capacity and it is difficult to serve properly with all the new guidelines.

Alex Nazzal, a San Francisco DJ, told the San Francisco News he is not sure about how outdoor entertainment would work during the cold seasons because he thinks people would not enjoy being outside in the rain. He said there are lot of factors to consider, especially thinking about upcoming holidays such as Christmas and New Years.

“With winter coming up, and the colder fall conditions, I’m not sure how people are going to enjoy being outside partying. Since it’s better to have outdoor events in the summer, and spring when the weather is better, and the days are longer,” said Nazzal. “But, then again if it’s an outdoor venue, and they have the right amount of outdoor heaters, and alcohol it can be a good party. Providing that the dj sets the mood with good music and good vibes of course.”

Businesses that want to hold outdoor amusements will need to apply for JAM at least two weeks before the activity, and will need to prepare a health and safety plan depending on what they will host or do. They must have an authorization to use the outdoor property as well. The guidelines of the permit include following the specific gathering rules at each outdoor location, preventing crowds, sanitizing spaces and not playing amplified sound between 10 p.m. and 9 a.m. Staff members and performers should also be wearing face coverings.

The locations and activities that will be able to apply for the permit are the following:

For more information on JAM, visit https://sf.gov/provide-entertainment-or-amplified-sound-outdoor-space.

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