Yolo County News

Davis passes temporary ban on new nightspots after fatal brawl

“Someone was killed in our downtown,” said Mayor Dan Wolk. “We can’t just move on and pretend nothing happened. Our actions need to back up our rhetoric.”
“Someone was killed in our downtown,” said Mayor Dan Wolk. “We can’t just move on and pretend nothing happened. Our actions need to back up our rhetoric.” New York Times file

The Davis City Council voted Tuesday to impose a 45-day moratorium on building or expanding bars, restaurants or nightclubs in the city after a fatal stabbing little more than a week ago at a popular downtown nightspot.

The measure passed on a 4-1 vote, according to the City Clerk’s office. Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis cast the dissenting vote.

The three-page urgency ordinance will apply the moratorium citywide but appears to focus on downtown Davis. The ordinance covers bars, restaurants and nightclubs that serve liquor and restaurants of more than 2,500 square feet. Existing facilities will remain open.

“Someone was killed in our downtown,” Mayor Dan Wolk said the day before the vote. “We can’t just move on and pretend nothing happened. Our actions need to back up our rhetoric.”

The Davis City Council voted on the ordinance at a special morning meeting at Community Chambers, 23 Russell Blvd. The moratorium takes effect immediately.

Councilman Davis had said the moratorium would affect two businesses, one that is expanding and another that is opening. On Tuesday, Davis corrected that to say only one restaurant is presently affected by the temporary ban. A friendly amendment to the ordinance will allow the business to appeal the moratorium directly to council members, Davis said. Following the vote, Davis said he dissented on philosophical grounds, saying the city and the business’ owner perhaps could have worked out a voluntary agreement to temporarily halt its expansion plans.

The ordinance arrives on the heels of a deadly brawl early Sept. 19 at KetMoRee that ended with the death of 23-year-old Peter Alexander Gonzales of Hacienda Heights. Two men were arraigned last week in Yolo Superior Court in Woodland on suspicion of murder in Gonzales’ killing. Three more were arrested over the weekend in connection with his death and face court dates Tuesday and Wednesday in Woodland.

Victor Vergara will appear Tuesday afternoon in Yolo Superior Court in Woodland on suspicion of murder in connection with the knife attack. Authorities arrested Vergara and two other men, Carlos Biviescas and Anthony Rivera, over the weekend. Biviescas and Rivera will be arraigned Wednesday.

All join Martyn Alex Contreras and Zackary Thomas Sandeno, who were arraigned last week and now face an Oct. 5 court date.

A sixth suspect in the killing, Joseph Sandeno of Vacaville, remains at large.

Wolk on Monday said the deadly incident and the ordinance will spark “the community-wide conversation of what we want our downtown to be.”

Davis Police Department officials held their semi-annual meeting Sept. 23 with representatives of bars and are working with state Alcoholic Beverage Control officers to boost patrols downtown. Meantime, city officials say existing zoning regulations are in need of a fresh look.

Employees at a number of bars on and near Davis’ G Street were reluctant Monday to talk about the proposed ordinance or the violence that prompted it. But Sergio Saenz, owner of Tres Hermanas of Davis, said the stabbing and a recent escalation of late night trouble downtown has him considering closing his restaurant earlier at night. Tres Hermanas stays open until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday – late enough, Saenz said, to spot problems.

“I’m considering not opening late anymore. It’s gotten scary,” Saenz said. “It’s more the behavior. I’ve noticed people being very violent lately. I don’t think it’s worth it anymore (to stay open late) unless something changes.”

Staffers in the report say the number of restaurants that serve liquor and turn from dining spot to nightclub in the late evening has grown over the past few years and that there has been an overall increase in restaurants serving liquor overall, including five on the bustling G Street corridor where Gonzales was killed. Staffers cite Davis police data suggesting that although incidents have not increased in proportion to liquor licenses issued, a larger percentage are violent or involve weapons.

The police data and the concerns that are front and center in the days after Gonzales’ death are stoking a conversation on safety that is “already underway,” Davis said.

“That conversation is happening. Members of the restaurant community were in chambers today and they heard very clearly our concerns,” Davis said following the vote. “I think we’re on the right track for making the changes we need to make. There are willing leaders in the restaurant community and I think they want to be part of the solution.”

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith

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