Three women and two men in their 20s and 30s were rousted out of the former downtown pool hall and nightclub in the 200 block of West Yosemite Avenue Thursday afternoon after someone witnessed them going through a boarded up rear alley door and called Manteca police.
Officers surrounded the building from the front to the sides and the back facing the alley before threatening to send a canine in to bring them out – a canine that later guarded them once they were handcuffed and placed on a curbed planter.
Dominic Cook — The owner of the 12,500 square foot building — said Thursday’s incident was the latest in a series of break-ins that he says have cost him thousands of dollars and destroyed much of the interior. The City Council in December rejected interior renovation plans to reopen it as a nightclub as part of the city’s new strategy to cherry pick allowed uses in a bid to pump new life into downtown.
Police found one woman hiding on the ground floor and two others along with two men secreted on the roof area where Sgt. Steve Schluer and Sgt. Brian Holland ordered them out of their hiding places at gunpoint. The officers had used a ladder provided by the fire department to climb to the roof from the rear of the building.
Officers said the five arrested were among seven others who were found in the building just last week.
Those taken into custody Thursday and transported to county jail included. Jacob Willis, 27, Ricky Ambrose, 37, Rita Mejorado, 33, Shuntrell Allen, 22 and Annie Souza, 34.
Cook noted that the nightclub formerly operating out of his building went out of business. He has been looking for new tenants, noting that city hall has declined to approve any of them. He said Manteca’s downtown doesn’t offer much to new business like the old downtowns of Livermore and other places like Los Gatos that have created a charming ambience.
“I’m just frustrated. In the last 10 days we have gone through nine sets of locks and chains and boards placed over the doors. The worst is that we have had probably 10 prospective tenants for the building and the city has denied every one,” he said.
Cook said he sat down with city officials, including former Police Chief Nick Obligacion, and went over the requirements for a new nightclub operator that included video security cameras, two private patrol cars and numerous security officers who would be required to be in and around the building 24/7. Several of his prospects said they would go along with the more code requirements but they too were turned down, he said.
The building owner said he had attempted to bring in Home Town Buffet and the Golden Corral restaurant into the downtown but to no avail because of the city’s parking requirements and lack of other upscale shops and stores.
The number one potential nightclub had offered to put up a million dollars to create a state of the art business for the downtown and the city once again denied the plan, Cook insisted. He added that the current business developer who wants to create the nightclub comes with a “top notch” security team from the Bay Area and promises a force of a dozen people on site at any given time to protect the downtown as well as the nightclub.
“The city wanted to buy the building dirt cheap but I wouldn’t sell,” he said. “I have to go down every day and replace the locks and bolts that have been cut the night before. They cut 3/8-inch bolts to get in. I have gone through 25 to 30 different locks they have cut off over past months.”.
Cook said there is no power in the building and all the windows have been broken by the homeless individuals who have entered the building for a place to sleep and socialize. The broken windows have cost him thousands of dollars to replace, he said. The PG&E monthly bill was running $1,000 a month before he had the power shut off.
One downtown merchant recalled that the homeless watch for police from the rooftop and keep an extension ladder on the west side of the building – climbing down and running over to Library Park so they won’t be caught.
In the past the homeless breaking into empty building to camp have started fires, a serious concern in downtown due to old construction standards and no space between stores.
Among them were the burned out Sycamore Arms boarding house just down the street at Sycamore and Yosemite, the used car office on the southwest corner of Lincoln and Yosemite, three buildings of Moffat Boulevard, and the old Sunnyvalley Valley Meats building on West Yosemite.
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