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Bike night issue is gearing up

Route 66 owner is still in talks with city officials

Posted: August 24, 2009 10:34 p.m.
Updated: August 25, 2009 4:55 a.m.

A sheriff deputy patrols around the Route 66's bike night back in May 2009.

 
After a summerlong trial period, George Thomas may get the go-ahead to keep having weekly bike nights at his Route 66 Classic Grill in Canyon Country.

A recommendation for a three-year temporary-use permit is slated to be on the agenda for the Sept. 1 meeting of the Santa Clarita Planning Commission.

However, Thomas may still face the prospect of paying more than $2,000 a month for two, on-duty sheriff’s deputies to be on the scene when he holds the Wednesday night motorcycle cruise-ins.

“The city wants to negotiate some sort of agreement but it doesn’t appear they’re willing to waive the requirement for me to pay for deputies,” said Thomas, himself a retired 25-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department.

It remains unclear if the planning department’s recommendation will call for paid deputies, Associate Planner Mike Ascione.

In the lead-up to next week’s meeting, Thomas said he and attorney Hunt Braly met with city officials Friday.

“It’s very important that we can work things out,” Braly said. “I am cautiously optimistic.”

Tension over the Route 66 bike nights — which Thomas has hosted for the better part of a decade — swelled last spring.

The Planning Commission voted in early May to continue until Sept. 1 a request for a five-year temporary use permit for the bike night. In the meantime, the four-month permit the city granted Thomas will allowed him to continue holding the events.

Sheriff’s Capt. Anthony La Berge has raised concerns to city officials about what he said is a presence at bike nights 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.

La Berge has said the presence of biker gangs can create an atmosphere for potential violence.

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.

The retired cop pays several current and retired lawmen to provide security for the bike nights, which typically draw several hundred people on the evenings they’re held between spring and fall.

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