After San Francisco’s Black Cat jazz club and bar was broken into early Tuesday morning — and police responded to the incident — two dozen looters allegedly raided the acclaimed music venue in the Tenderloin for five hours, freely taking everything from guitars to bottles of champagne worth hundreds of dollars, the club’s operations manager said. 

Adam Chapman told SFGATE that people treated the club at Eddy and Leavenworth as if it were a free market, and he feels San Francisco police could have done more to stop it. He said the looting occurred from about 2 a.m. to 7 a.m.

“I counted 25 people who came in and out through the night,” said Chapman, explaining that security footage showed the looters at work. “It was just a free-for-all. People were just going in and taking out piles of stuff and building piles on the sidewalk.”

Surveillance footage shows looting inside of the Black Cat Jazz Club, in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood, on Tuesday, July 26, 2022.

Surveillance footage shows looting inside of the Black Cat Jazz Club, in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, on Tuesday, July 26, 2022.

Image courtesy of The Black Cat

“Someone went into the kitchen and meticulously filled her backpack with steaks and kitchen equipment, and then she repacked it so she could fit in more,” he added. “Someone stole everything out of our champagne fridge.”

Chapman said some people came in, stole items and left, later returning with big trash bags and flashlights to take more. He also said this all happened less than a block from a San Francisco Police Department station, and management and the owner are frustrated that more steps weren’t taken after the break-in to reach the owner and secure the club. 

“You can literally see the police station from the corner window,” said Chapman, who has lived in SF for more than 15 years. 

Police first responded to a report from a witness of a break-in at the the club at 2: 19 a.m., the San Francisco Police Department said in a statement. At the scene, officers saw an individual exit the business through the shattered glass door and detained the person outside the club without incident, the statement said. The suspect was later released.

The department said it “made multiple attempts to contact a responsible party or representative of the business but were unsuccessful.” An incident report and number, along with contact information, were left by officers at the scene, police said. The San Francisco Fire Department also responded to the scene and constructed temporary measures to secure the business.

Chapman claimed that neither he nor the club’s owner received a call from police, and they were unaware of the burglary until 7 a.m. Tuesday when a prep chef arrived at work and called the owner.

“[Police] said they called a number, but we don’t know what number that is — it wasn’t mine or the owners,” Chapman said. “When I asked an officer what number they called, he said, ‘I’m not sure.’ The police chief has our owner’s phone number. We’re also in a building that has a 24-hour desk person. If they just walked around the corner, they could have asked that person.”

Chapman feels more attempts should have been made to reach the owner and to secure the business to prevent the second break-in and looting. 

“The fire department taped our curtain to the door with three pieces of tape,” he said. “The wind broke in the second time, blowing the curtain open. Even putting more tape on the curtain or putting police tape up may have stopped it. “

Chapman said he and the owner are calculating the cost of the stolen items; he estimates that it’s in the tens of thousands of dollars. 

“We give so much back to our community,” he said. “We give so much to the schools in our community. We’re always fighting for the Tenderloin and …we have Grammy-winning artists playing here. We’re becoming a top jazz venue. We do so much extra here … power-washing our building, we pay for security overnight, we do everything possible to make our customers feel safe when they’re in the Tenderloin.”

The San Francisco Police Department said it responded to a report of the burglary at the club Tuesday afternoon, and the department’s crime scene investigations unit is investigating the incident. The department also said it is “is currently working on creating policy that better addresses incidents like these.”

The San Francisco Fire Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.