At a special 7:30 am meeting on Tuesday, the Davis City Council will hear two items, the first of which is the first action in response to last Saturday’s murder at KetMoRee.
Council will be asked to approve an emergency ordinance that would establish a 45-day city-wide moratorium on establishment or expansion of bars, nightclubs and restaurants serving distilled spirits, or restaurants exceeding 2,500 square feet. The vote would require four council votes.
It was just over a week ago that 23-year-old Peter Gonzales was stabbed to death following an early morning fight inside KetMoRee in downtown Davis last Saturday morning.
While 20-year-old Joseph Sandeno remains at large, the police announced three more arrests Friday and Saturday.
Detectives arrested an additional homicide suspect on Friday, identified as Victor Manuel Acosta Vergara (a 22-year-old male from Vacaville) in Fairfield. During the searches of various homes in Vacaville, detectives also located narcotics, large sums of money and a firearm.
Then 24-year-old Carlos Biviescas of Vacaville was taken into custody without incident Saturday afternoon in Vacaville on homicide charges. On Saturday night, 25-year-old Anthony Rivera of Vacaville was taken into custody on homicide charges. The previous Saturday, the day of the stabbing, they had arrested Martyn Contreras of Vacaville, then Zackary Sandeno on Monday. Police are not releasing the name of the person they believe actually stabbed Mr. Gonzales.
Earlier this week city officials met with officials from the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC). This would be council’s first formal action in response to the killing.
Staff writes, “Downtown Davis was the site of a fatal stabbing the evening (early morning) of September 19, 2015. This violent incident has triggered community discussion about the role of alcohol and nightclubs, particularly (but not exclusively) downtown, in Davis’s efforts to maintain a safe environment for residents and visitors alike.”
While the city has held policies emphasizing downtown as a retail and entertainment center, listing 91 eateries in the downtown, over the past few years, “City has seen an increase in the number of restaurants, often those serving distilled spirits, which serve as restaurants during the day and early evening, and transform to nightclubs after that.”
There are five ABC licensed premises located on G Street alone, between 1st and 3rd Streets. Staff writes, “Police Department data suggests that the aggregate number of incidents has not appeared to change in proportion to the number of liquor licenses, but the nature and characteristics of crimes occurring at these locations has, including an increase in the percent of cases that are violent or involve weapons.”
Staff adds there is a need “for increased community conversations regarding the overall safety of our downtown, and particularly regarding the number and type of licensed premises, and [for] City Council deliberation on nightclubs and alcohol sales and consumption in Davis.”
Assistant Chief Darren Pytel told the Vanguard that, contrary to what people may believe, the more people you get into a bar, because of the security inside, actually reduces the problems. So having more places can be a better situation than having not enough space and having people waiting in line, angry that they aren’t inside, having fun.
“Downtown is actually more orderly now that we don’t have all of the long lines in front of some of the bars like we used to,” he said.
However, the city staff argues that, by putting a moratorium on new establishments, they will effectively “press pause” on “establishment or expansion of bars, nightclubs, restaurants serving distilled spirits, or restaurants exceeding 2,500 square feet for forty-five days to afford the opportunity for additional analysis and community comment.”
The moratorium is only effective for larger facilities – over 2500 square feet. It will not “prohibit new or alterations or expansion of restaurants not exceeding 2,500 square feet, even if beer and wine are served. The small size of these facilities makes them unlikely to attract large or disruptive crowds, and, therefore, does not appear to significantly contribute to the current problems experienced in the City.”
Staff adds, “In addition, these uses make a significant contribution to the vitality of our downtown and neighborhood centers.”
Staff notes, “The moratorium can be extended by further action of the Council prior to the expiration of the 45 day period. It is critical to note that this moratorium will not cause existing facilities to cease operations.”
The police department has reached out the bar and restaurant community “to support a conversation on how downtown restaurants and bars can partner with the City to address security and nightclub related nuisance issues. The Police Department has already received preliminary agreement from several of the downtown bar owners to be personally involved in those conversations.”
The police department is working with ABC “in providing increased patrols in the downtown area to curtail underage and excessive drinking, the use of false identification to purchase alcohol, and ‘disorderly house’ issues that lead to increased calls for police service. The Police Department is also partnering with ABC on the TRACE Program, which involves conducting an investigation to determine where a minor received alcohol when there is an emergency involving that minor.”
Additionally, “the Police Department is awaiting final notification on receiving an ABC mini-grant to conduct alcohol/fake identification stings and ABC involvement in conducting IMPACT inspections, which are specifically designed to reduce alcohol-related crime in and around licensed premises.”
Not discussed here are whether the specifics of the incident that occurred at KetMoRee a week ago would be impacted by these kinds of actions
Staff notes that “the City does not have any ABC Type-48 bars, but one might potentially be permitted under the Core Commercial zoning regulations and staff recommends they be included in the moratorium.”
The recommended moratorium expires on November 13, 2015. The city council may extend the moratorium at a public hearing prior to expiration, for up to an additional 10 months and 15 days, for a total of one year. Thereafter, the council could extend it for up to an additional year, for an overall total of 2 years.
Staff adds that it “recognizes that property owners and restaurateurs have invested in Davis properties, building plans, and other financial transactions under the assumption that current regulations would continue. Building permits for one restaurant/nightclub have been in process since August. It is staff’s goal that the analysis and public discussion fostered by the moratorium proceed as expeditiously as possible.”
Staff would return on November 3 with a progress report and ordinance that would extend the moratorium. They write, “An option that is anticipated to be brought to the Council at that time is a modification to the moratorium, if it is extended, to provide an opportunity for affected business owners to seek relief from the moratorium through the Planning Commission Conditional Use Permit process.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting