Oakland Tribune Outtakes

Notes from Oakland, Berkeley and in between

Sweet’s Ballroom

By awoodall
Tuesday, July 28th, 2009 at 11:39 am in Night Owl, Oakland nightlife.

Things have cooled down at the historical ballroom since July when the city threatened — or so it seemed to supporters at least — to take away the venue’s cabaret license. I was on vacation but it sounds like Sweet’s let the crowds get out of control a few too many times — or so it seemed to police — during the past few years. The city and supporters (mostly Ecstatic Dance regulars who gather at Sweet’s) converged at a July 9 meeting and hammered out a temporary solution. Oakland’s administrative hearing officer Barbara Killey said the operators agreed to hold down attendance to 400 for now and build their way up from there gradually. Owner Matthew Fox said otherwise: “We are still working with the city and presenting them with a list of events that were large and had no trouble over the past years.  So the limit of 400 is by no means established at this time.”
But it sounds like the city wants them
to acquire more experience and put mechanisms in place for promoting events before they can grow any larger. “The event is only as good as the promoter,” Killey said. Indeed. The owner and manager Sherman Lee don’t have the kind of experience that you need to put on shows that draw in 800+. (That number seemed to be the breaking point for Sweet’s events when crowds outside created melees on the street. ) Fox is a pastor and rents out the ballroom to users. Right now the promoter is whoever is putting on the event. Steve Snider and Andrew Jones of Oakland Venue Management used to run the ballroom but had a nasty falling out with Fox a year or so ago after a biker club gathering got too loud outside. The hooplah over the bikers blew over, more or less, but the bad blood between Steve/Andrew and Matthew Fox didn’t, at least not totally. There was talk of legal action against Fox for a while but I think they got it settled. So there’s no centralized control at Sweet’s except, I guess, Sherman. The operators argued they don’t have control over the events and the promoters. But Killey said their contract shows that they do have the power. The city doesn’t seem in any hurry to shut down Sweet’s Ballroom, which is part of Oakland history and does some good stuff. So we’ll see how it goes. This might be one more example of how an entertainment commission would be useful. Maybe not.

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One Response to “Sweet’s Ballroom”

  1. Freddy Says:

    Thanks for the background.

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