Nightclub Sues City, Asks for $9 Million in Damages

Categories: Law & Order
Mark Webb
A club owner and one of his former bartenders filed a much-awaited complaint yesterday alleging racketeering by the San Francisco Police Department, the city, and state of California.

A filing attorney Mark Webb had described to reporters over the past two weeks as a group lawsuit bringing together multiple nightclub owners and staff members dwindled to a complaint with only two plaintiffs: Mike Quan, owner of The Room, and one of his former bartenders, Javier Magallon -- both of whose allegations we detailed in a March 17 cover story. (A security video of Magallon's arrest has been posted to YouTube.) 

In the complaint, Magallon, who was arrested by Officer Larry Bertrand and his partner, Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Investigator Michelle Ott, during a June 2009 bust of The Room, alleges assault and battery, wrongful arrest, and kidnapping. Quan alleges mail fraud, unlawful interruption of business, abuse of police power, and destruction and theft of property.

In the complaint, Quan requested economic damages for "in excess of $2,000,000" and bartender Magallon requested economic and personal injury damages "in excess of $1,000,000." 

The complaint describes "a pattern of racketeering activity in violation of RICO," the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which allows plaintiffs to seek treble damages. According to the complaint, this results in a request for damages "in excess of  $9,000,000."

The lawsuit names the police department, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, the city and county of San Francisco, the State of California, Gavin Newsom, Larry Bertrand, and Michelle Ott as defendants.

Webb said in an interview this morning that his clients would be happy to settle out of court. "Lawsuits don't bring people closer together," he said, calling on the mayor to mediate the situation -- regardless of the fact that Newsom is named in the lawsuit.

"What is Newsom doing that he's so busy with that he can't have a cup of coffee with me?" Webb asked.

The lawyer noted that Philippe Rieser, the owner of Vessel, would no longer be participating in a RICO claim against the city and state, but that later in the week he planned to file claims against the city  for Maurice Salinas, owner of the shuttered 11th Street nightclub Club Caliente; John Bauer, owner of Azul -- who alleges that the sale of his club's liquor license was frustrated by the ABC; and Siobhan Heffernan, a promoter's assistant who had an alleged run-in with Larry Bertrand and Michelle Ott.

DNA Lounge, Slim's, and Great American Music Hall, which had also been in talks with Webb about a possible claim against the ABC, said two weeks ago that they would not be participating.

"If you're asking me to give you an interpretation of why the numbers have dropped, it's one word: fear," Webb said.

Jack Song, a spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera's office, said they needed to review the complaint before they could comment.

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