Modesto council to club: Suspend dancing

The Modesto City Council on Tuesday temporarily stripped a downtown club of its dance permit, citing a "volatile" atmosphere that taxed Police Department resources.

Sin City Nights, a 10th Street bar, can remain open, but it will not be able to allow dancing for the next 30 days. It also does business as Oceans 10 restaurant.

The council's decision nixed two events that were planned for the next couple of weeks -- a record signing scheduled Friday with a member of the Federation rap group, and a "Pimp 'n Ho" costume party slated for Oct. 5.

The Police Department wanted to revoke the club's dance permit entirely because of nine violations of its agreement with the city, such as providing inadequate security and holding events that require extra law enforcement resources without notifying officers.

By a 5-1 vote, the council lessened that penalty, opting for the suspension to give owner Rosalind Mitchell a chance to improve her business practices.

Councilwoman Janice Keating voted against the suspension, saying she was concerned that the city was moving too quickly to punish the club, partially because its owner believed the hearing on her permit had been postponed until Oct. 9.

Mitchell received a letter Aug. 24 informing her that the department planned to revoke her dance permit. She had asked the council to delay its vote for two weeks, but council members refused to wait.

"It's not an acceptable thing," Councilman Brad Hawn said. "I'm afraid of what will happen."

Mitchell told the council the violations that police cited occurred during her business's transition from Tymeless Cuisine to Sin City Nights.

She said she and her business partners were modifying their practices to reflect the club's sudden popularity, contending that the number of its patrons had tripled in the past two months.

"We have been making noticeable improvements" for club security, Sin City Nights manager Tony Havens told the council.

Police Lt. Ron Cloward, who is in charge of downtown security, gave the council a list of contacts that officers made with Mitchell and Havens in which the business owners were advised to improve security. Some took place before the department documented dance permit violations in June and July; others occurred after the club was told that its dance permit would be revoked.

Cloward said the club had a tendency to force its patrons out on the street at closing, which created an "extremely volatile" scene. He attributed a Sept. 8 brawl to that practice.

Other clubs complained about Sin City's security, too.

Les Knoll from the Copper Rhino, Chris Ricci from the Fat Cat and Rudy Baca from the Modesto Sports Bar and Grill each raised concerns with police about Sin City's security.

"The club is completely out of control," Ricci told the department by e-mail in July.

The two events that were canceled by the council were not necessarily aimed at dancing, but they were likely to draw crowds. Club owners must notify police when they hold those events to give officers time to craft a security plan.

Cloward said the club's notice was insufficient for the record signing. Cloward said Sin City also failed to notify the department about an Aug. 26 Girls Gone Wild event.

The suspension of Sin City's dance permit follows a Police Department effort to refocus its downtown strategy.

It has stopped issuing dance permits, which increased from one in 1999 to 13 this year.

It also asked the City Council to create an advisory commission charged with reviewing downtown safety options. Its report is expected within three months.

Bee staff writer Adam Ashton can be reached at aashton@modbee.com or 578-2366.

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