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How Legendary Jazz Club the Black Cat Is Bouncing Back from That Marathon Robbery

Owner Fritz Quattlebaum spoke to the mayor, the police chief, and community members following a series of break-ins

People outside of a Tenderloin club.
The Black Cat was robbed multiple times in one night, but is finding a path forward.
Black Cat | Eric Wolfinger
Paolo Bicchieri is a reporter at Eater SF writing about Bay Area restaurant and bar trends, coffee and cafes, and pop-ups.

On Saturday night, as producer Kassa Overall blasts a drum-heavy set from the Black Cat stage, Adam Chapman says things have been ridiculous. The director of operations of the Eddy Street club says the story he’s telling is outrageous, but it’s true: the San Francisco Police Department assigned an employee overtime to go through a report on the fallout of his club’s multiple break-ins after the same police department failed to protect his place of business throughout the late night. Since Chapman didn’t come to the club immediately after the break-in (he says neither he nor anyone on staff received a call from the police) the cops left after 20 minutes. “It’s been egregious,” Black Cat owner Fritz Quattlebaum sighs in agreement.

But the club is rebounding in typical style and wants to move the conversation forward. Quattlebaum says, after being connected by Mayor London Breed, he spoke with San Francisco Police Chief William “Bill” Scott, who expressed condolences. Quattlebaum says he hopes the police step up after this incident — and says Scott indicated the department is considering a policy change when they spoke over the phone. But SFPD has yet to release information about any specific changes they plan to make in the wake of the incident. In the meantime, both Chapman and Quattlebaum are happy to work with their extended communities in hospitality and music as the show goes on.

After six years in operation and hosting hundreds of musicians, the club was never going to let a series of property crimes stop the good times. Bringing on fine dining alums (like Chapman) and multi-show “residencies” where artists can play whatever they feel, were central to Black Cat’s COVID era recovery. The plan is going well, they say. Since the break-in, the business has raised more than $15,000 in less than a week via GoFundMe. Damani Rhodes and San Francisco poet laureate Tongo Eisen-Martin performed Wednesday after the incident. The total financial damage is still being tallied, though the team can add an upgraded alarm system, installed last week, to the tally.

The setbacks come after a few months of flagging business. But, again, the community response has been anything but depressing. Chapman says a few friends from former restaurants brought family meal, and Quattlebaum says nightclub Power Exchange and bar Mr. Tipple’s Recording Studio are a few of the local businesses that donated to the Black Cat’s fund. Chapman, who came to the Black Cat from Gibson to preserve arts in the city, says even the sandwich shop across the street came by to show support. He doesn’t want to have a negative relationship with the police — he’d like a new conversation to come out of this.

He’s not the first San Franciscan perturbed by SFPD’s apparent lack of concern for crime victims, especially in the Tenderloin. The police placed three strips of literal red tape on the Black Cat’s door before leaving the premises, which SFPD called “temporary measures to secure the business” but allowed for a free-for-all to ensue as soon as officers left. Though the police in the neighborhood have Black Cat staff’s phone numbers, no one on the team was contacted; Quattlebaum says when asked, the police would only release the area code of whatever number they did call, but Quattlebaum said no one on staff has a number with that area code. The club employs security for weekend shows, but no one is on guard 24/7.

Sergeant Adam Lobsinger told Eater SF Monday the department is “working on creating policy that better addresses these situations and incidents.”

Gibson

111 Mason Street, , CA 94102 (415) 771-7709 Visit Website

Black Cat

400 Eddy Street, , CA 94109 (415) 358-1999 Visit Website