Crime - Sacto 911

State suspends Davis restaurant’s alcohol license after fatal stabbing

Joseph Sandeno, final suspect in the KetMoRee bar stabbing at his arraignment.
Joseph Sandeno, final suspect in the KetMoRee bar stabbing at his arraignment.

A Davis restaurant and bar had its alcohol license suspended Thursday, following violent incidents that included a fatal stabbing last year.

The suspension order by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is the latest fallout from a brawl at KetMoRee in September that ended with the death of Peter Alexander Gonzales, 23, of Hacienda Heights.

KetMoRee, a Thai eatery located on G Street in the heart of downtown Davis, is a hot spot for late-night entertainment for UC Davis students and other young people in Yolo County.

ABC officials alleged in a complaint that management maintained a “disorderly house,” resulting in numerous incidents ranging from public drunkenness to assaults. The 30-day suspension will be followed by a two-year probationary period and was agreed to by restaurant management, according to John Carr, spokesman for the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

KetMoRee owners did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Under the agreement with the state, management will provide four uniformed security guards during evening events. If similar disruptions occur during the probation period, officials could permanently revoke the alcohol license.

The killing of Gonzales, a Southern California resident who was in Davis for a family event, struck a nerve in the college town of 66,000 people. Six men – Carlos Biviescas, Martyn Contreras, Anthony Rivera, Zackary Sandeno, Victor Vergara and Joseph Sandeno – were arrested on suspicion of murder in the case.

The slaying was the catalyst for an emergency 45-day moratorium on new bars and nightclubs, as well as on restaurants serving alcohol that exceed 2,500 square feet. Before it expired, the Davis City Council moved to extend the period for one year, citing the need to pursue new regulations.

City staff is crafting a new ordinance that would increase oversight of such businesses by adding a separate permitting system. Davis Mayor Dan Wolk hopes the permitting process will stem the rise of crime and violence in the downtown district but vowed to push for more aggressive rules should the situation continue to deteriorate.

Davis has seen a surge in violent incidents and cases of public drunkenness over the past four years, according to police data. This increase coincided with nightclubs opening in the G Street area, including late-night club scenes at KetMoRee, Tres Hermanas and G Street WunderBar.

However, the figures for last year dipped slightly, owing to an increased attention on downtown following the Gonzales homicide, according to officials.

“If we don’t see an improvement, we’ll have to ratchet it up,” Wolk said, adding that the council could pass an ordinance regulating closing times.

Currently, the de facto closing time for bars and restaurants is 2 a.m. because state regulations prohibit alcohol sales past that time, Wolk said.

Tres Hermanas owner Sergio Saenz shuttered his nightclub business in October because he was fed up with the violence. His restaurant now closes at 9:30 p.m.

“It made me more money,” Saenz said of his late-night bar. “But I had to deal with fights, vomiting and all kinds of rowdiness.”

Wolk blamed some of the disturbances on outsiders, noting that Davis has become a “regional destination” for entertainment.

Saenz agreed that it was often nonresidents who were most rowdy and “seem to not mind fighting or pulling out a weapon.”

“College students misbehave, too, but I always feel like they have a lot to lose by getting arrested or in trouble,” Saenz added.

Chris Patton, a UC Davis graduate student in computer science, came to the town in 2008 first as an undergraduate. The 25-year-old described Davis as a “bubble” and said he doesn’t feel downtown is unsafe, even during the wee hours.

“These sorts of things rarely happen,” Patton said Thursday afternoon while sitting outside at Temple Coffee, just opposite KetMoRee.

Richard Chang: 916-321-1018, @RichardYChang