http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2012/02/17/neo-nightclub-faces-operating-cutbacks-after-shooting-parking-lot-fights


Pleasanton Weekly

News - February 17, 2012

NEO nightclub faces operating cutbacks after shooting, parking lot fights

Hours, patron capacity curbed by city planners despite federal suit

by Jeb Bing

Club NEO, a Pleasanton nightclub whose owners have sued the city in Federal District Court over interference with the music it plays, has been ordered to cut back its hours and the number of patrons allowed inside.

The latest restrictions imposed by the city's Planning Commission follow the shooting of a Fremont patron at the club last month and a series of fights both inside and outside the club, which is located on the Chabot Drive side of the Gateway Square Shopping Center.

Last week, the Planning Commission decided against a proposal to revoke the operating use permit for the club for now but did order the club to limit the number of patrons to 300, down from the 812 permitted in the club's conditional use permit granted earlier. The club must also close the bar at 1 a.m. daily, instead of 1:45 a.m. as previously authorized.

At the Planning Commission meeting, Associate Planner Rosalind Rondash described a series of incidents at Club NEO that included numerous large fights that started inside the club in December and then spilled out into the parking lot of the popular open air retail center.

She cited two incidents on Dec. 17 and Dec. 18 when Pleasanton police encountered a large crowd from the club loitering in the parking lot, fighting and holding "sideshow" vehicle activities where motorists were recklessly driving their cars in the parking lot. The melee was so large that all available police were sent to the Gateway Center with backup help also sent by the Dublin Police Department and the Alameda County sheriff's office.

As the crowds confronted police, they moved from the Club NEO site to the Shell gasoline station on Hopyard, then proceeded to "mob that station," according to Rondash, and then moved to areas of the Gateway Center occupied by Kelly Moore Paints, Eddie Papa's and Kinder's.

The Jan. 14 shooting also came as hundreds of Club NEO patrons moved outside to the parking lot, again bringing police in from Pleasanton and other forces to break up the fights.

As a result, Pleasanton officials yanked the club's operating permit and shut it down. The club's owner, Diamond Pleasanton Enterprises, filed an emergency appeal in Federal District Court, where District Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton granted a temporary restraining order against Pleasanton that allows Club NEO to continue operating. A hearing on the case scheduled for March 7 has since been continued indefinitely.

Meanwhile, city officials have moved forward with new conditions on the club operating permit, which they say they can do despite the court's restraining order. In addition to the restrictions on operating hours and the number of patrons allowed, the Planning Commission ordered the club to provide and pay for a security staff that meets the requirements of Pleasanton Police Chief David Spiller, and to provide regular cleanup services to keep the Gateway Center parking lot clear of trash, glass alcohol bottles and other items that have been discarded routinely in the lot.

Gateway Square, located at the northeast corner of Hopyard Road and Stoneridge Drive, is one of the city's busiest outdoor retail centers. Among its restaurant tenants are Chili's, Eddy Papa's, Kinder's, Round Table Pizza, The Cheese Steak Shop and Ume Sushi. Numerous professional and service businesses also lease space in the center.

Club NEO is the most recent nightclub in the 10,746-square-foot space that was first occupied by Sh Boom in 1986. Between the mid-1990s and 2003, a Teen Night was approved for the site, providing a venue for youths 14-18 years old to socialize and dance in a controlled environment and at specified times. Teen Night was voluntarily discontinued and changes were made to the nightclub to accommodate a new club called Aura, with the same owners and format as Sh Boom.

In 2010, Diamond Pleasanton Enterprise received approval from the Planning Commission to increase the occupancy and to allow outdoor dining for a newly named Status nightclub, and then won the commission's approval to increase the maximum occupancy from 643 patrons to 812 when the club's name was changed again to NEO.

Diamond Pleasanton asked the commission to further modify its operating permit to provide activities for those under 21, but that application has yet to be considered.

Diamond Pleasanton Enterprises also sued the city of Pleasanton earlier asking the Federal District Court to set aside a city requirement affecting the type of and the volume of music it plays. That case is still pending.

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