KetMoRee’s Alcohol License Suspended for 30 Days by ABC

KetMoRee

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

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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7 Comments

  1. Barack Palin

    I think the actions by ABC should be enough to scare all of the downtown night clubs into instituting better practices.  If any of them lose their liquor license they are done.  I don’t think the city needs to do anything further.  As David put it, this was a shot across the bow.

  2. Misanthrop

    I’m disappointed. Hopefully the ABC’s measured discipline will have the effect BP suggests but I would have sent a stronger message by revoking the liquor license which would have resulted in closing them up. That would have been the strongest message possible to everyone. The ABC is in effect saying you get two bites at the apple and perhaps they are correct in the way they administer discipline and the actions taken will abate the problems with ineffective security downtown late at night. They certainly are the professionals but I can’t help feeling that while alcohol will eventually be served again at Ket Mo Ree I’m not sure that justice is on the menu.

  3. Alan Miller

    Copy of my comments in the Enterprise:

    The biggest problem with the nightclubs downtown is the nightclubs. I speak only of a handful of places, specifically those that are “A sit-down restaurant by day and strobing dance club by night”, although I’d use the word ‘throbbing’ rather than ‘strobing’.

     

    Many said KetMo wouldn’t be docked due to just ‘one incident’ (a murder, that was). Wrong. Ketmo would be wise to take the Paragon route and change their name (now Froggies) lest the businees always be linked to the “Ketmo Murder”.

     

    “I have a choice where I spend my dollars and I know KetMoRee will not be getting my business anymore.” — Elaine Roberts Musser comment

     

    Ketmo NEVER got my business because of the nightclub morph, and neither do any morpher restaurants. Tres Hermanas is temporarily off my BANNED list unless and until they start morphing again, that is unless they (and others) do so in a more sane manner.

     

    The rest of the evening businesses downtown that don’t morph shouldn’t be held to pay for the bad atmosphere a few bad actor businesses brought to the downtown. No early closures, no bans on live music. The City Council and City Staff and the convened downtown business group came up with a wise set of rules that I believe may work to curb what became an ugly night scene and preserve the rest of Davis late-night downtown.

     

    The regs almost went too far and could have done unnecessary harm. The downtown business group led by the owner of Sophia’s came up with some great suggestions that were good for the businesses and the downtown scene overall. How this process played out is Davis at it’s best.

    1. Frankly

      Ordered dinner last night from Ket Mo Ree.  They delivered it to my home.  It was yummy.  Having some leftovers for lunch today.

      Don’t go to the nightclub.  Never been a nightclub type of person except when I played in a Davis area rock-dance band decades ago.   But I know there are a lot of young people in this town that enjoy a good nightclub.  Good for them and good for Ket Mo Ree and others providing services that local people want.  Now they need to clean up their business practices a bit as per the ABC requirements.

  4. Frankly

    This tells me that Ket Mo Ree was breaking some rules, but not egregiously like some had claimed.

    It is frankly surprising to me that they have been given a suspension and probation.  But my position was always that they were innocent of bad business practices with their liquor license until proven guilty.

    Now we know.

    They have done some things wrong and need to fix them.

    However, the things they did wrong were not at the level that some of the most critical posters on the VG claimed.

    A 30-day suspension will hurt their business.

    But I question the judgement of that type of penalty.  Why not just fine them?  Now the restaurant will just suspend the employees that support their bar/drink service.   And obviously the night club would not be in business for 30 days.  The restaurant offsets the financial impact of no alcohol and nightclub business on the backs of those employees.

  5. Matt Williams

    Frankly said . . . “But I question the judgement of that type of penalty.  Why not just fine them?  Now the restaurant will just suspend the employees that support their bar/drink service.   And obviously the night club would not be in business for 30 days.  The restaurant offsets the financial impact of no alcohol and nightclub business on the backs of those employees.

    That is a very good point Frankly, especially the bolded part.  The question that your point prompts is how to set the level of the fine to be paid.  Any thoughts?

    1. Misanthrop

      The question of how much is interesting. By suspending the license they are issuing a penalty roughly of 1/12 of the annual revenue so the bigger the operation the larger the fine. Another question will be any civil damages. Its hard to sue bars but it can be done and depending on the insurance policy they carry they may end up paying through higher premiums for a long time. A civil award could end up costing much more than a one month bar closure.

      The problem with a straight forward fine is there would be no break in the continuity of the service. ABC is punishing Ket Mo Ree but also sending a message of deterrence to other bar owners and the community that the conditions that led to this tragedy will not be tolerated. ABC has been doing this a long time, probably since the end of Prohibition they know how to send a message. Still I would have gone farther then they did and sent an even stronger message. By the way I am not against bars but I do think they have a responsibility to keep their patrons safe. The strongest message that could have been sent was revocation but they felt suspension and probation was more appropriate.

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