On Thursday, nearly six months after the September 9, 2015, stabbing that stunned the Davis Community, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) delivered their verdict on the popular restaurant and nightclub in Davis, posting a Notice of Suspension at the KetMoRee Thai Restaurant & Bar, located at 238 G Street in the City of Davis. The business is prohibited from serving or selling alcohol for 30 days and the license has been placed on probation for two years.
If the suspension represents a slap on the wrist, it is also a shot across the bow. Any further problems at the establishment could result in far more serious consequences.
According to a release from ABC on Thursday, “The suspension is the result of an investigation conducted by the ABC and the Davis Police Department related to ongoing disorderly operation of the business as defined by California Business and Professions Code section 25601.”
According to ABC, KetMoRee, which operates under duel functions as a restaurant and an after-hours dance club, was deemed a “disorderly house” after the ABC investigation revealed more than 20 calls from the restaurant for “incidents such as fights, assaults, public drunkenness and disturbing the peace” between January 2013 and September 2015.
On September 9, 2015, a patron was stabbed to death during a fight with others inside the business. Six people have been arrested and are awaiting a preliminary hearing regarding that stabbing.
Following that stabbing, a Vanguard records request showed that there have been 525 calls for service since 2010 at KetMoRee. Now-Police Chief Darren Pytel played down the sheer number of calls, noting that the police have asked establishments like KetMoRee to call the police at the first sign of trouble, even on incidents for which they might not normally consider it necessary.
From the chief’s perspective, bars are about the same as they were five years ago, but students are doing far less drinking than they have done in the past. Bars are no longer just catering to the students, and that might be part of the problem. But if it is, it is not just at KetMoRee alone, although at this point that venue seems to be the most popular late night destination.
Pytel said, at KetMoRee and other locations, that they are seeing more and more weapons. “We’ve taken more guns and knives off of people arrested in fights downtown,” he said. “We have kind of seen a change regarding escalation in weapons and violence over the past couple of years.”
Darren Pytel clarified that the calls for service have not suddenly doubled or tripled downtown, it’s always been busy. However, the nature of these incidents have escalated somewhat in the last few years.
The incident led to a community-based effort to figure out how to curb violence and other alcohol-based disturbances in the downtown.
The city put a moratorium on new large night clubs, and last week the council directed staff to look into placing what they are calling a “soft closure” on drinking establishments.
While bar owners and restaurateurs are strongly opposed to an earlier closing time, they have expressed some support for a soft closure, where “the entertainment establishment may be prohibited from allowing new entry and/or reentry after an established time (1:00 a.m.). Additionally, the entertainment establishment is prohibited from having lines for customers wanting to gain admittance after a set time.”
Concerns expressed here and elsewhere are could “a hard closure time increase the numbers of private parties occurring in residential neighborhoods? A majority of the bar/nightclub business actually starts after 11:00 p.m. There is some thought that if bars/nightclubs stopped serving at midnight or 1:00 a.m. then the student-aged crowd would simply resort to house parties to socialize.”
At the last meeting, about a dozen bar owners appeared before council supporting a soft closure and permitting recommendations from council.
Based on council direction, Chief Pytel will work to piece together an ordinance that could be ready by the April 5 Davis City Council meeting.
In the meantime, as Davis continues to look into existing rules, ABC’s decision sends what they hope is a strong message to KetMoRee and other bars in Davis.
The murder was the final straw for one nightclub, as Tres Hermanas in October ceased their nightclub operations.
Moreover, staff notes, “Immediately following the homicide in September 2015, the frequency of drunk in public and violent incidents in the downtown area significantly decreased. Although speculative, the decrease observed may be attributable to the increased attention this area received from a variety of sources (press, law enforcement) subsequent to the homicide. Increased attention may have contributed to greater compliance or ‘better behavior’ from both patrons and on-sale licensees.”
According to the press release from ABC, “Upon conclusion of the suspension period, the licensee is required to abide by specific operating conditions related to employing security guards for the safety of patrons and the public.”
They add, “If the licensee allows similar levels of disorderly activity to occur at any time during the two-year probationary period, the ABC could move to permanently revoke the business’s license.”
As measures go, this one is fairly strong: clean up your act, or face having your business license revoked.
—David M. Greenwald reporting