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Trouble-Plagued Rock Ballroom's License Revoked

August 03, 1989|TED JOHNSON | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — Acting on complaints of noise, littering and drug use and drug sales, the City Council has voted unanimously to revoke the business license of Fender's International Grand Ballroom, which showcases heavy metal and punk bands on weekends.

The city's Department of Financial Management recommended the action. A department report said the owner of the downtown nightspot, John Fender, failed to comply with repeated requests from the city to halt rowdiness allegedly caused by patrons.

The council also revoked licenses for two party rooms and Player's Sports Bar, a bar and grill that Fender owns on the same block. The ballroom is at 521 E. 1st St.

"This man has stomped on his neighbors; he's raised havoc," Councilman Wallace Edgerton said. "If he would have been in my district, I would have shut him down a year ago."

Nearby residents complain that they have been harassed by patrons loitering in the area and littering.

Last year, rock fans outside Fender's skirmished with Long Beach police who had cut off further access to a concert in an overcrowded room.

Fender has contended that patrons have not caused all of the problems. "We're in downtown Long Beach and have only one show a week, while the area's got problems seven days a week," he said last month in an interview.

Fender left the hearing Monday saying: "It isn't over yet."

His attorney, M. Lawrence Lallande, said he plans to seek a Superior Court order to force the City Council to schedule another hearing for Fender.

Lallande said Fender has been preoccupied by a five-week criminal trial that concluded Monday, when a jury convicted Fender of helping steal more than $141,000 from Farmers & Merchants Bank in 1987. He had been accused of conspiring with a bank teller to cover his overdrafts with bogus deposits.

Fender, who is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 22, faces a prison term of up to five years. He has been freed on $100,000 bail.

Lallande had urged the City Council to postpone action on the license revocations, but City Council members said Fender had been given enough time to prepare.

'Bent Over Backwards'

Councilman Ray Grabinski said the council had "bent over backwards" to ensure that Fender received due process.

Councilman Evan Anderson Braude, whose district includes Fender's property, also said Fender had been given enough opportunity to solve the problems attributed to patrons.

After the vote, Lallande said the decision shows that "Long Beach, at least with this council, is not prepared to step into the 1990s."

But neighbors applauded the council's decision.

"I would submit that our neighborhood has been in a living hell for the past five years," said Scott Hunt, 28, who owns a condominium in the area. "We can't tolerate much more of this."

Hunt, representing an informal group of neighbors, told the council that as recently as last weekend, police were called to Fender's to break up fighting in the streets.

"Rock 'n' roll has never been an issue," Hunt said. "It's been the way the man runs the operation. Sometimes it sounds like bands are in my living room."

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