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Manteca scrambling to block nightclub
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In its heyday Club Leon in the 200 block of West Yosemite Avenue brought a lot of people into downtown Manteca.
The problem was many of the people weren’t what merchants say downtown needs to become a thriving destination for families.
The Manteca City Council made it clear Tuesday when approving zoning changes advanced by businesses working with the Manteca Chamber of Commerce to set the stage for revitalization of downtown’s core that they agreed with the proposal to eliminate nightclubs as an allowed use.
There was a problem, however. The Community Development Department is now processing an application for another nightclub to open in the same spot. It is expected to go before the Planning Commission before the zoning changes go into effect.
After adopting the first reading of the zoning change, council directed staff to schedule a special meeting in the coming weeks with the intent of voting on whether to issue a moratorium on nightclubs in the central district as an urgency measure to go into effect immediately. If approved that would prevent the nightclub from being approved before such a use is prohibited. If that doesn’t happen the nightclub becomes a legal non-conforming use.
Club Leon was arguably the most negative business venture in at least the past 30 years in terms of impacts on downtown.
 In mid-2009 then Police Chief Dave Bricker successfully yanked the nightclub’s dance permit after discovering its business permit had expired and the owner hadn’t applied for a new one. After the owner submitted a request for a new permit it was discovered that the original permit only allowed for a lounge and billiard hall and not a dance hall as it had been operating as.
The decision was based on a long laundry list of issues.
The club’s dance patrons – a number of who become intoxicated – had been blamed for excessive police calls, littering, public urination, disorderly conduct, and other issues in the downtown area.
Manteca Police also weren’t getting cooperation from the owner to reduce the calls for officers – many to break up fights and to handle assault complaints — that hit a city-high 40 during a 12-month period ending May 31, 2009
Other reasons included:
As many as five minors at a time being found repeatedly in the business that also had a bar.
An incident where police responded to Food-4-Less and found Club Leon employees trying to pass counterfeit money to purchase alcohol for the bar. It is a violation of the Alcoholic Beverage Control regulations to buy alcohol for a bar at a retailer like Food-4-Less.
The doors being locked in violation of the fire code.
The dance hall being over the legal capacity.
A male patron who said he was assaulted by a club bouncer.
ABC agents also finding minors in the bar or more than one occasion.
Numerous complaints from surrounding business owners regarding public intoxication, urination, vandalism, and trash resulting from Club Leon.
The ABC had suspended the alcohol license twice in a year for the previously listed violations.
Councilman Mike Morowit while agreeing with the zoning change said he believed the applicant should be refunded review fees for the new club that are upwards of $5,000. Morowit noted  the businessman applied for the permit to open a night club “in good faith” with the understanding it was a legal use.
Councilwoman Debby Moorhead concurred. She also suggested the city could work with the applicant to find another place in Manteca for the nightclub.
The community development staff noted the applicant had submitted plans to essentially gut the inside and construct improvements from scratch including updated bathrooms.
The core zone’s notable changes also include:
Elimination of residential uses
Bar establishments must be 300 feet or more from a similar use
Alcohol beverage sales have been better defined by specific type of beverages permitted to be sold for off-site consumption
Allowing for small breweries producing specialty beer as well as tasting rooms for beer and wine.
The chamber in conjunction with downtown businesses started working with former City Manager Karen McLaughlin earlier this year to advance the zoning changes. The ideas didn’t start being processed by the community development department until September, a month after the application was first made for the nightclub. After the city responded to the nightclub permit request within the time period required by law, the applicant worked on the responses for several months before resubmitting it earlier this month.
Mayor Steve DeBrum lauded what he described as a major step to get downtown moving toward a better future through “the formation of a new partnership and collaboration” between the business community, chamber, and city.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail