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Bike night

Posted: May 4, 2009 9:20 p.m.
Updated: May 5, 2009 4:55 a.m.
"That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves."
- Thomas Jefferson

Our city leaders deserve thanks for laying aside the heavy hammer of hard-line politics in favor of the give-and-take of compromise.

The Santa Clarita Planning Commission is set this evening to OK a four-month permit allowing George Thomas to continue holding the popular Wednesday bike nights at his Route 66 Classic Grill, and laying aside until September his request for a five-year permit.

The agreement was reached after city officials tried to persuade Thomas to reduce the number of bike nights out of concern the event might draw unsavory elements.

Hundreds of motorcycle enthusiastists attend the Wednesday night gatherings, held between April and November.

In recent months, local sheriff's Capt. Anthony La Berge has told city officials he's concerned about an increasing presence of bikers who belong to outlaw motorcycle gangs like the Vagos and Mongols.

But Thomas, who has held the events for the past seven years, says there has never been any violent incidents.

The retired Los Angeles police officer employs other retired, gun-toting lawmen as security guards, and they make sure nobody is walking in wearing motorcycle club insignia, or "colors."

From where we stand, Thomas has done a good job of managing his event, letting the riff-raff know they're not welcome and bringing revenue into the strip mall at the corner of Soledad Canyon Road and Luther Drive.

If the Planning Commission went with the original recommendation to limit Thomas to one bike night per month, the Canyon Country resident said, he would see a drastic cut in revenue, to the tune of $250,000 in those months he hosts bike night.

Other restaurants in the shopping center would lose spillover business from crowded bike nights.

La Berge is concerned about potentials.

If outlaw bikers keep showing up to Route 66's bike night, the reasoning goes, the stage will at some point be set for violence.
As the man in charge of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station, La Berge is doing his job. We taxpayers trust him to keep our safety - not the economy - his top priority.

But how far do we go in preventing potentials?

For years, the Love Ride attracted thousands of bikers to Castaic Lake without the stain of biker-on-biker violence.

Same goes for the annual American Heat Palm Springs Motorcycle Weekend, which draws upward of 40,000 cyclists to the desert community.

So far, the Palm Springs event has been free of bloodshed despite the presence of motorcycle gang members.

How far should our community go in preventing potential violence or criminal activity? Clamp down on a popular event at a Canyon Country eatery because members of a biker gang might show up some day, possibly get into a potential argument with someone, and perhaps get violent?

What happens if deputies start to notice outlaw biker gang members browsing the vendors at the Saugus Swap Meet? Do they shutter the Swap Meet?

Or what if Vagos or Mongols who happen to like Led Zeppelin show up at the city's Concerts in the Park? No more concerts?

That said, we're relieved that La Berge and City Manager Ken Pulskamp met with Thomas and finally arrived at the compromise on which the Planning Commission will vote tonight.

The four-month temporary-use permit would allow Thomas to hold an official bike night with a live band set up in the parking lot every other week, in addition to the other car shows and fundraisers he holds.

City officials said the intent is to take stock of the situation over those four months and come back to the Planning Commission with a recommendation in early September for Thomas' request for a five-year temporary-use permit.

City officials will be watching Route 66.

We'll be watching city officials.

Now, more than ever, is not the time to take action that will hurt local businesses.

The Planning Commission will make the right decision if it approves the four-month permit.


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