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Route 66's bike night gets reprieve

Owner likely to get four-month permit for events

Posted: May 1, 2009 10:19 p.m.
Updated: May 2, 2009 4:55 a.m.

George Thomas, left, owner of Route 66 Classic Grill, talks with Santa Clarita residents Mike and Ruthann Levison, April 22 at the Canyon Country eatery. Mike Levison is president of the Southern California Harley Riders Association.

The owner of Route 66 Classic Grill is breathing a little easier after city officials came up with a compromise for his weekly motorcycle night.

George Thomas learned Friday the Santa Clarita Planning Commission will be asked Tuesday to continue until September his request for a five-year temporary-use permit for the bike nights, car shows and fundraisers he holds.

In the meantime, the city is granting him a four-month temporary-use permit. That temporary permit comes with a few conditions.

"I was very, very pleased with (City Manager) Ken Pulskamp and (Assistant City Manager) Ken Striplin," Thomas said. "I think they really bent over backwards."

In recent weeks, Thomas grew concerned the Planning Commission might severely limit the number of bike nights he could hold - a move he said would have a dire effect on his business.

For the better part of a decade, Thomas has hosted a weekly bike night at his Canyon Country eatery between April and November, drawing hundreds of bikers and featuring live music.

Sheriff's Capt. Anthony La Berge has raised concerns to city officials about what he said is a presence of motorcyclists who are members of the Vagos and Mongols motorcycle clubs. The two groups are categorized as outlaw motorcycle gangs by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Thomas has contended that 99 percent of bike night attendees are simply cycle-lovers. He said that while some biker-gang members have shown up, they're not welcome and nothing violent has happened.

Last Tuesday, Thomas met with Pulskamp and La Berge to discuss a possible compromise.

The temporary permit includes several conditions, he said. The official bike nights will be held every other week, with a band set up on a stage in the parking lot. The band's shut-down time will be moved to 9 p.m. from 9:30 p.m.

On the opposite weeks, he said, city officials had no problem with a one-piece or two-piece musical act performing on Route 66's patio. Motorcyclists will still be welcome on those unofficial nights.

Most notably, on official bike nights, Thomas will be paying about $600 to have two on-duty sheriff's deputies on-scene.

Presently, he pays two to four armed, retired sheriff's deputies $25 an hour to provide security on Wednesday nights.

"We will monitor these events closely," city Planning Manager Lisa Webber said, and added the four-month permit provides for a trial period of sorts.

She said city officials have received numerous e-mails from residents who either support or oppose Thomas' bike nights.

"Hopefully it's a win-win for the business community, the people who come to bike night and (the neighborhood)," city spokeswoman Gail Ortiz said of the pending trial period.

The permit is the third item on the Planning Commission's agenda. The commission meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the City Council chambers at City Hall, located at 23920 Valencia Blvd.


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