Busted for busting a move
Len Travis says the city wants to break up the party.
The Roseville business owner has started a media campaign accusing the city of banning dancing and targeting his establishment, the Station, in a “Footloose”-style clamp down on having a good time.
That’s sent the City of Roseville on the defensive, going so far as to put a bulletin on its homepage proclaiming “Dancing NOT banned in Roseville.”
People can bust a move all they want in Roseville, the city says — but if they’re doing it at the Station, it’s a violation of city code.
The business has received roughly 30 citations for violating its dance permit and zoning ordinances since May, racking up more than $10,000 worth of fines. But the dancing continues following a two-week hiatus.
“When music plays, people get up and we cannot prevent them from expressing their desire to move in a ‘rhythmic’ fashion, as the (dance) permit says,” said Len Travis, property manager and owner of the Station. “We stopped all of that at a tremendous cost … This week, we told customers we cannot stop them from dancing.”
The dispute with the city has ruffled the feathers of patrons at The Station, which hosts dancing events seven nights a week. They have Blues and Laughter Mondays, Swing Time Tuesdays, Country Wednesdays, Salsa Thursdays, 80s Dance Party Fridays, Classic Hits on Senior Saturdays and Rainbow Latin Sundays.
“I am appalled at the amount of harassment that is being aimed at a Roseville business during this time of slowed business and recession,” said patron Judith Vella.
The Station is operating without a dance permit and running a nightclub in an area not zoned for one, said city Spokeswoman Megan MacPherson. Nightclubs are not allowed within 500 feet of a residential district. The city defines a nightclub as a place that provides amplified music and dancing. It defines dancing as “movement of the human body, accompanied by music or rhythm.”
“No dancing is allowed at that site. Period,” MacPherson said. “No matter who is operating a business at that site, they are not allowed to offer dancing since the property itself lost its nonconforming use status.”
The problem stems from a lingering dispute from April 2008 when the city revoked the dance permit held by the former business at the site, Station Ultra Lounge, citing that the business had forfeited its legal nonconforming right to operate as a dance club by illegally expanding its dance floor without the proper permits.
Travis contests that allegation and filed a lawsuit against Roseville. In March, the Superior Court of Placer County sided with the city.
Station Ultra Lounge went out of business soon after the dance permit was revoked, and a new incarnation, The Station Bistro and Lounge, began operating as the Station in October 2008.
“We took great pains to operate fully within the constraints of our license and the city ordinances that defined us as a ‘restaurant with evening entertainment’ and not as a nightclub,” Travis said, in an e-mail to the Press Tribune.
But it was too late, MacPherson said.
“They didn’t have the right to be grandfathered in because they didn’t have a nonconforming use status at that point,” she said. “They had already lost it.”
Travis said in the first 32 months of the Station’s operations, they had no problems. Then in May, the citations began.
Macpherson said the city suspended enforcement of the Municipal Code provisions that were invoked by the Station’s lawsuit as the court was deciding the matter.
But during that timeframe, Roseville police received about 65 calls to respond to the Station. Those calls involved loud noise, disturbances, assault, public drunkenness and other complaints.
As for the recent citations, Travis is appealing all of them. He said after the first citation, he applied for a dance permit and was denied.
“This is all part of the plan to eliminate the business and competition that has come from our location,” Travis said.
He alleges that the city’s planning department and the Roseville Redevelopment Agency, both headed by Paul Richardson, is trying to force the Station off Orlando Avenue and into Old Town — the city’s zoned entertainment district.
“People come from all over to dance at our place because they know it’s a safe place,” Travis said. “Our people don’t want to go to a nightclub. They come to our place because they enjoy a safe, clean environment.”
Vella is one of those patrons.
“I go to the Station on Tuesday and Thursday nights for dancing,” Vella said. “I am a non-drinker. I just go there to dance and socialize. All the people who go there are dancers, not bar-flies. It’s just another venue for dancing, and we all have to have a place to go to for dancing.”
Sena Christian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.
Roseville’s nightclub rules
· The municipal code defines “nightclub” as a business that provides amplified music and dancing, which requires a dance permit and conditional use permit
· The city defines “dance” and “dancing” as movement of the human body, accompanied by music or rhythm
· Nightclubs are prohibited to be located within 500 feet of a residential district
Source: City of Roseville Municipal Code
Venues with dance permits
· The city issues two types of dance permits — those attached to a fixed business (reviewed annually) and those for special events
· Fixed businesses with valid dance permits: Mandango’s Sports Bar & Grill, Onyx Club and Trocadero Club
· Businesses with annual reapplications under review: Basic Urban Kitchen & Bar, Boxing Donkey, Sports Page Bar & Grill and the Glass Turtle
· Businesses with new applications in process: New Owl Club, the Rose Room and the Vault
· Dances conducted in city, school and religious-organization facilities don’t need dance permits, nor do dances sponsored by charitable organizations if 100 percent of the proceeds from the dance go to the charity
Source: Dee Dee Gunther, City of Roseville