THE ENTRANCE TO STUDIO 420, A NEW CAPITOL HILL hiphop club, is adorned with a bright graffiti mural and a sign warning patrons that no rags or beanies are allowed: no gang attire, no drugs, no alcohol either. Inside, the freshly painted walls play backdrop to a set of golden palm trees handmade of wood and more graffiti.

Angel and Amir Taherazer, the siblings who run the place, take turns interrupting each other as a work crew tackles a remodeling project in the next room. Angel, 23, and Amir, 19, have much to say about their new club, hiphop culture, and most of all, the trouble they've encountered with police officers and city bureaucrats.

The two say local officials have it in for them because of their clientele--mostly young, minority music fans--and are trying to run them out of business. "The police come up here and they threaten to arrest my brother," says Angel. "They go, 'We're going to take your equipment and we're going to put you under arrest for being a nuisance to the community.' And all he's trying to do is run a night club and make sure these kids have fun and somewhere to go."

Angel and Amir were born in Tehran during the Iranian Civil War. They came to Seattle by way of Kurdistan, Iraq, and Spain. Three years ago, they got together with a bunch of friends--Filipinos, Samoans, Africans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Cambodians--and formed PAC Productions (short for People of All Colors), to spotlight local talent and provide places for young people to dance. With help from their father and older brother, Angel and Amir have been running their over-18 dance club at 420 East Denny since January.

Hiphop, Amir insists, "is about peace, love, and unity." But try selling that line to a squadron of Seattle cops, or to City Attorney Mark Sidran. Since 1992, the city has forced more than a dozen clubs to stop playing hiphop or to close down altogether [see sidebar]. Angel and Amir say the police have a similar fate in mind for them.It wasn't long after Studio 420 opened that the cops started snooping around. At first, noise complaints tipped them off. Then City Council members started receiving letters from nearby residents complaining, without any proof. "Since the opening of this club the crime rate in my area has risen drastically, from theft and violence to vandalism and public intoxication," said one. Another demanded to know "who decided to let this club open in an area with such a high volume of apartments and condos, knowing what kind of music would be played and what kind of crowd it would attract."

Angel and Amir say they've equipped their club with adequate security, including surveillance cameras and 13 security guards. Yet the police have quickly become regulars. Particularly troublesome, they say, has been Officer Bennie Radford, a member of the East Precinct Community Police Team. They note that Radford works off-duty for the youth club DV8, an obvious competitor with Studio 420.

Both Angel and Amir say they've had bad encounters with Radford at DV8. Angel recalls leaving the club choking one night after Radford "maced the whole crowd." Amir says another night he was passing out fliers in front of DV8 and invited Radford to a show. Radford allegedly told him, "If I ever come to your show, I'm coming to shut you down." Amir claims Radford later came into Studio 420 to warn, "We're coming for you." Radford declined to comment for this story.

Mostly, say Studio 420's owners, the police serve to inflame the club's customers. Amir recounts one conflict where a Samoan guy "as big as a bear" was looking to jump into a fight. Amir was trying to talk him out of it but a cadre of observing officers started egging the man on. "They have all these cop cars parked all over the place, and they have all their lights on. You would think they would try to help me, right? Instead, this cop was going, 'High Point in the hou-ouse,' you know, taunting him."The real trouble for Studio 420 started in the early morning hours of March 7, when police responded to a disturbance involving "multiple fights" outside the club. According to the police report, the fights spilled out into the street--there were reportedly 400 people inside the club and 150 people outside at closing time.

The alleged brawl prompted Officer Radford to forward an incident report to Bob Berg of the city's Department of Construction and Land Use. A little searching by Berg turned up just what Radford had apparently hoped for; the space had never been granted a Certificate of Occupancy permit. So, on March 9, the city "red-tagged" the club, shutting it down for lack of a permit.

The Taherazers have been wading through bureaucratic muck ever since. They've managed to get a temporary permit to operate, but their occupancy limit has been set at 153 people, roughly one third of what they'd thought it would be. In fact, the previous tenant had done business with a "place of assembly" permit issued by the fire department that allowed for 428 people.

A high occupancy limit is particularly important for non-alcoholic clubs, where the only fee most customers pay is the $10 to get in. Given that they can only allow in 153 people at a time, the Taherazers will have a hard time paying for security, rent, utilities, sound and light engineers, and DJs. One solution would be to open on weeknights, but that would likely lead to more complaints from neighbors.

Berg defends the club's occupancy limit as a safety measure. Studio 420's owners "got caught between a rock and a hard place," he says. "They assumed they had some permits that were not in place.... When you're dealing with people new to the business and new to the regulations, it can be very difficult for them."

Amir agrees, but wonders if the red tape isn't extra long on purpose. "You'd think they would tell you who you have to talk to and what you need to do," he says. "But they just make you find everybody. They make it impossible for you.... If they want to shut us down, they can. They'll find the law."

Many local promoters and club owners believe the city selectively enforces regulations governing clubs, says Angel Combs, executive director of music lobbying organization JAMPAC. When the city moves to shut a place down, she says, "You get all of these layers of government that work together to build a case."

David Meinert, a promoter of all-ages shows, remembers the battle he had to wage in order to host music events at Oddfellows Hall on East Pine in the early '90s. "Every weekend there was another reason for either the fire department or the police or the building inspectors to stop us from doing a show," he says.

At press time, Studio 420 is still open. The Taherazers are working on soundproofing the club and getting a permanent permit. Angel says she starts every day wondering whether the club will still be in business tomorrow. "I just wish there was a place we could go, with a few neighbors, the community police team, the security team, and us, to sit down and talk. But nobody wants to talk about this."

OSCAR'S II 1986-Present. City conducted undercover narcotics sting as part of drug abatement efforts, which led to club losing liquor license in '97. Still open, but has not hosted DJ nights in years.

HOLLYWOOD UNDERGROUND 1986-1992. City convinced Liquor Board to alter club's license and impose restrictions on dancing and entertainment. Club closed six months later.

CELEBRITY ITALIAN KITCHEN 1985-1994. After a '93 shooting and allegations of criminal activity, city filed to close the club under a tailor-made Public Nuisance law. The club went under in '94.

IGUANA ROCKIN' CANTINA 1995-1998. City moved to close the Iguana last year, and succeeded.

PIER 70 1991-1994. City prepared to close club under nuisance abatement laws in '93. Club pulled plug on hiphop shows and folded six months later.

JERSEY'S ALL-AMERICAN SPORTS BAR 1991-Present. City convinced state to alter club's license to disallow dancing. Club no longer hosts hiphop shows.

SHARKY'S 1995-1998. Port of Seattle claimed illegal activities at the club and bought out its lease in '98.

NEKO'S April-September 1996. City temporarily rescinded club's "added activities" license, forcing the club out of business.

Other Seattle clubs targeted for featuring hiphop/R&B: The Showbox (Mo' Funk), Club Kastle de la Renaissance (closed in 1993), the Belltown (closed in 1992), 14 Roy Street (closed in 1994), China Harbor.

Clubs denied permission for "added activities," including dancing: Deano's, Suzie's Oriental Palace, Maxim's.