Last May we ran a story about a diner near Los Angeles named the Route 66 Classic Grill. George Thomas, the owner of the grill has been sponsoring “biker nights” during the Los Angeles summer, which runs from April to November, for the last ten years.
A very important Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Captain named Anthony La Berge decided that biker nights are potentially dangerous. There has never been any serious crime committed at any of the Grill’s biker nights since they started. But La Berge has a reputation in Los Angeles County for going out of his way to harass people who ride American made motorcycles and he complained that these biker nights were attended by “known members” of the “outlaws gangs” the “Vagos and the Mongols.”
In Captain La Berge’s defense it should be pointed out that it has been open season on Mongols out here for about the last ten months. And, really all he is doing is trying to imitate the federal police. And drum up some money for his boys, of course.
The Biker Tax
Last week, the Santa Clarita Planning Commission debated the issue again. And in what may be a legal precedent, the Commission hit George Thomas with what may be the nation’s first biker tax.
Last May, local politicians decided that the Route 66 Classic Grill cannot hold “biker nights” without a permit. Thomas is hardly an outlaw himself. He is a retired Los Angeles Police Captain and he hires both current and retired cops as armed security guards to keep the peace during his bike nights. The guards enforce a no-colors policy.
But Sheriff’s Captain La Berge has succeeded in convincing local politicians that the Hollister “motorcycle riot” may re-erupt at the Grill at any moment. So, Thomas must now pay a $6,500 per year deposit in advance to cover the overtime salaries of Sheriff’s Deputies “in case” they “need to respond to trouble.”
“It really does set a precedent,” Thomas complained to the Santa Clarita Signal. “I don’t feel good about having to pay $6,500 a year.”
Of course the whole point of this tax is to get Thomas to pay for the two deputies Captain La Berge plans to routinely send to bike night. While the cops are there they can “gather intelligence” and seek out “enforcement opportunities.”
This never had anything to do with public safety. But not everybody knows the score so fourteen people showed up at the hearing to speak on behalf of continuing the bike nights and opposing the new biker tax.
“This has been a trouble-free event,” one of them, a local resident named Mike Levison said. “It troubles me that the city I love…has singled out George and is setting a precedent that smells a little bit like protection.”
All due respect to Mike Levison but he got it wrong. This smells a lot like protection.