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Vander Denied Permit to Run Solana Beach Teen Club

December 01, 1987|ANTHONY PERRY | Times Staff Writer

The city manager in Solana Beach announced Monday that he has rejected a request from Richard Henry Vander to run a nightclub for teen-agers in the wake of Vander's arrest at the club Nov. 13 for allegedly possessing cocaine and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

"There is no denying there was a loaded weapon and a controlled substance on the premises," City Manager Michael Huse said. "At this point, those two facts are enough for us to deny the permit. Whatever court action occurs relative to Mr. Vander is a separate matter."

Before Vander's arrest, Huse said Vander deserved a chance to prove himself fit to reopen Distillery West as a disco for youths 16 to 20 despite his criminal convictions for narcotics, weapons violations and stolen property in Texas and San Diego.

Were Willing to Bend

"The City Council felt there was such a need for an alcohol-free, drug-free environment for teen-agers, we were willing to issue a permit despite the rather dubious background of Mr. Vander," Huse said.

"Then to have this (the Nov. 13 arrest) happen--just the idea of a firearm and controlled substance on the premises--we had no other choice but to deny issuance of the permit," he added.

Vander's attorney, Morris Sankary, said he will probably go to court to force the city to issue a teen-age dance permit to Rockstar Enterprises, a corporation composed of Vander's wife, Tanya, and his parents, Charles and Martha Vander of El Cajon.

Sankary said his client quit the corporation after his arrest and promises to have nothing to do with Distillery West.

"I think it's a mistake to punish the corporation for something Mr. Vander allegedly did," Sankary said. "True, he has been the moving force in getting things moving, but he now promises not to go on the premises or be involved in any way. What more does the city want?"

Huse said he made his decision after reviewing the Nov. 13 arrest record and consulting with City Atty. Daniel Hentschke. He also met with Vander for more than an hour and has sent him a formal rejection letter.

City officials have said they make no distinction between Vander and Rockstar Enterprises.

Under the city's dance club ordinance adopted this summer, Vander has the right to ask Huse for a formal hearing. If he is still not satisfied, he can take the matter to court.

But Sankary said he will probably skip asking for a hearing and go directly to court for a restraining order.

'City Never Liked Vander'

"The law does not require you to go through a procedure that is clearly hopeless," he said. "The city has never liked Mr. Vander, and now they've made their move."

Vander and Sankary have gone to court before in defense of Distillery West, situated on Sierra Avenue across the street from the city's beachfront park.

In May, a Vista Superior Court judge ordered the Sheriff's Department to return Vander's permit to run an adult nightclub, ruling that he had not been given due process.

Despite that victory, Vander again was stripped of the adult permit after being arrested in August for having teen-agers on the premises. He has since dropped his appeal of that revocation, preferring to concentrate on getting the teen-age permit.

Vander, 35, a former music store operator and bartender in a topless bar, had initially sought a liquor license so he could run Distillery West as an adult nightclub, but he dropped that plan amid an investigation of his background by the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Supporters of Vander were mixed in their reaction to Huse's decision.

"I think Vander really screwed up," said Scott Harper, 20, who was among two-dozen people who went to the council Oct. 20 to support Vander. "He almost had it. The council and the mayor seemed supportive, the parents said it was OK, the kids were behind him, and then he blows it."

Drive for Club Will Continue

Harper, a Solana Beach resident and student at Mesa College in San Diego, said the drive for a teen-age club will continue. North County coastal teen-agers have not had a disco since the closure of Club Zu in 1984.

"The kids would still like a teen club in Solana Beach, but obviously Vander is not the person for it," Harper said.

But Pamela Inman--an Encinitas mother of two teen-agers, who also testified in Vander's behalf--said she finds it impossible to believe he would jeopardize his chance to reopen Distillery West just as success was within his grasp.

At the time of his arrest, Vander was in the process of ironing out details about noise, parking and security so he could receive the permit.

"I'm displeased that he would be turned down without all the evidence being heard," Inman said. "I just know he would not have done it. He and the kids were working so hard to get Distillery West open."

Vander's preliminary hearing is set for Wednesday in Vista Municipal Court on the two felony charges.

Sheriff's deputies said they found a loaded .38-caliber revolver and one-sixteenth ounce of cocaine in Vander's desk while interviewing him about an unrelated drug investigation, in which he was not a suspect.

Vander served a 15-month prison sentence in Texas ending in 1980 and a 79-day sentence in San Diego County Jail in 1981 and was sent back to jail in 1984 for violating probation.

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