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Hollywood’s wild nightclub scene brings crackdown from city

Violent crime in Hollywood has increased 21% this year through Oct. 10, compared with the same period last year. Above, LAPD officers in the district in January.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

It was shortly after midnight Aug. 22 when the Los Angeles Police Department got the call about a brawl at the Cashmere nightclub in Hollywood.

When officers arrived, they found Jose Manuel Silva Nieves, a 20-year-old who went by DJ Steez, collapsed on the floor. He was taken to a hospital and died the next day. Police say the DJ was severely beaten during a fight.

His death has become a symbol in Hollywood.

Cashmere, located next to the Hollywood Wax Museum and not far from Ripley’s Believe It or Not, is one of numerous clubs that over the last decade have brought a bustling nightlife back to the famed district.

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But Hollywood is also seeing a surge of new development that is bringing new residents into the district. And that leaves city officials trying to balance a robust entertainment scene with the new condos and apartments.

A death at a Hollywood nightclub is rare, but LAPD Capt. Peter Zarcone said intoxicated patrons are responsible for a good share of the community’s violent episodes. Violent crime in Hollywood has increased 21% this year through Oct. 10, compared with the same period last year, with aggravated assaults up 36.8%, part of a citywide crime surge.

When nobody was investing in Hollywood, the clubs were here and they were kind of the first phase of revitalizing Hollywood.

Leron Gubler, president and chief executive of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce

Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who represents Hollywood, warned club operators that city officials would go after businesses that violate their operating permits. The announcement coincided with citations for Cashmere, which is accused of violating the city’s municipal code by allowing unpermitted construction and electrical work.

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An attorney for the club said the allegations are without merit. A public hearing is set for Thursday.

Cashmere is not alone. Department of Building and Safety records show the Sound Nightclub on Las Palmas Avenue has had 10 code violations since 2003, the most recent coming this month when it was accused of doing construction without permits or inspections.

The new attention from O’Farrell is not the result of an increase in complaints. In fact, Zarcone said complaints against clubs remain flat. But Halloween, typically the busiest night of the year in Hollywood, is less than two weeks away. Police plan to deploy an additional 300 officers to the district that night.

Officials also say that with more residents moving into Hollywood’s commercial core, they need to make sure clubs are following the rules.

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“Hollywood must be a neighborhood that is safe, clean and hospitable to its residents,” O’Farrell said.

Since 2000, the number of residential units in Hollywood has tripled, according to the Hollywood Business Improvement District, and the community’s estimated population has increased to 7,650 from 2,550.

Community leaders say the clubs played a major role in Hollywood’s revitalization after years of decline in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s.

“When nobody was investing in Hollywood, the clubs were here and they were kind of the first phase of revitalizing Hollywood,” said Leron Gubler, president and chief executive of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

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“Now that the area is improving, we do have a few clubs that are causing problems,” he added.

Resident Thomas Meredith keeps a log tracking noise violations and fistfights.

“These nightclubs have no regard for people who are essentially trying to live a residential life in Hollywood, and they’re held hostage to nightclubs across the street,” Meredith said.

Others in Hollywood are not as critical of the clubs, with some saying they are an important part of the community. But they say the city needs to make sure the clubs are following the rules.

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Even when the city does take action against a club, there’s no guarantee that the situation will be remedied.

In 2012, fire inspectors found more than 1,000 customers inside the Hollywood Supper Club — about double its capacity. The club, authorities alleged, also had illegal fireworks and a trapeze artist swinging from the ceiling over the crowded dance floor. Two years later, the operators of the Hollywood Supper Club pleaded no contest to allegations of overcrowding, use of an open flame, illegal wiring and use of an unpermitted structure. The business was placed on 36 months of probation.

This summer, LAPD investigators determined the club continued to violate the city’s municipal code. Officials at the Supper Club declined to comment.

Hollywood resident Paul Zambito said there must be a compromise in which clubgoers can have a good time without disrupting the lives of the people who live nearby.

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“It’s unnecessary that someone on the 10th floor should be able to hear the exact lyrics of the song in the club,” he said. “That tells me that you could lower it enough and the people in the club could still be able to hear and dance to the music.”

alice.walton@latimes.com

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