The first referendum on off-track betting in Manassas Park was in 1996. At the time, Colonial Downs thought they might want to locate the facility in the area where Town Center is now planned which prompted the realignment of the intersection of Route 28 and Manassas Drive. One local businessman, Dave Ruttenberg, saw that this location had some serious downsides. The location would require a rezoning, which would prompt a lot of difficult citizen input as it’s closer to the more upscale housing in Manassas Park, wouldn’t be located on a major transportation route, and there would likely be transportation capacity concerns on Manassas Drive. Ruttenberg had a brilliant idea — sell the idea of locating the facility in the mall on Route 28, and all of those problems would be avoided since it’s already properly zoned.
Colonial Downs loved the idea so much they changed their strategy and entered into an agreement with Dave Ruttenberg and some of the other tenants in the mall to have them support the referendum and help work the buildout issues in exchange for five million dollars. I’ve seen this agreement. They even agreed to give Dave Ruttenberg the food & beverage contract for the betting facility. This up-and-coming businessman was really living the American Dream, discovering business opportunities that created value for others, and earning his place among the movers & shakers in the community. Life couldn’t be better.
Suddenly all sorts of administrative problems started showing up for Dave, and one of the first was a renewal of his beverage license. As is usual, the police department provides a report about whether there are problems at a licensed business so decision makers can take into account whether the business is running in an orderly fashion and not causing problems for the neighborhood or for other businesses. The report furnished by the Director of Public Safety to the City Manager contained the normal listings of calls, with a lot labeled “Unfounded”, “Scene Calm”, and “No Information Available” for those where no crime or infraction was discovered. Three incidents in a one year period ended up with an arrest or a citation. So far, so good, and this seems to be a pretty calm place.
Then there’s one that really pops out at the end: “Severe Facial Lacerations”. A violent crime! Holy broken beer bottles, batman! This place is a problem!
Then you read the notes at the bottom:
“The most serious violation involved a fight where a man received severe facial lacerations when he was struck with a beer bottle as he was leaving the business. We do have serious doubts as to whether it happened at the Rack & Roll. Our investigation could not locate any broken glass or blood, we believe it happened in Prince William County at a different pool hall. I am including the incident only to emphasize the need to keep liquids in clear plastic cups. (emphasis added)
So the saga begins with the first salvos in the fight to revoke Dave Ruttenberg’s license to sell beer at Rack & Roll, which it eventually did ten years later.
Why was the Director of Public Safety including an incident that didn’t happen at Rack & Roll in a report to the folks determining whether or not to renew Ruttenberg’s license to sell beer? Oh, yeah, it was about the importance to public safety of “keeping liquids in clear plastic containers” at Rack & Roll, like it’s some sort of grungy college town bar. What a completely transparent and clearly deliberate lie. The motive for the police department to submit such a ridiculously unfair report to the City Council might well have something to do with this pesky young upstart intruding on the establishment’s prerogatives in the city, and definitely suggests that someone senior in the Manassas park Police Department was involved in a conspiracy to destroy a local businessman.
These folks didn’t have serious doubts, they absolutely knew it happened somewhere else because Dave Ruttenberg personally helped the police investigate this incident where the police found plenty of evidence at a different establishment. Dave Ruttenberg remembers the incident like this:
Ok, Here’s the story. It is about 1 am Sunday night/ Mon morning. I am working the shift. Karen Bachen (MPPD) arrives and asks where the stabbing victim is. I tell her I’ve been working all evening and there has been nothing unusual going on. I sense something is up so I suggest she drive to the poolroom on the other side of Manassas. I locked up the club and followed her over there. there was blood on their front door and all over the sidewalk out front. The place was locked up and dark. It was clear to both of us what had occured. I never found out any more about it. What a kick in the head to see it on their police report to the city council.
Here’s an image of the report furnished to the Manassas Park City Council. Tell me this makes any sense.
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