The Manassas Park Shopping Center at one time had two establishments that served alcohol and allowed patrons to play pool. One is obviously the Rack & Roll Billiards Club. The other was a place called “The Golden Phoenix”. One of these establishments was relentlessly harassed by officials of the City of Manassas Park as I’ve outlined before. The other one demonstrably should have been the focus of attention by law enforcement and elected city officials, but inexplicably was not.
The Golden Pheonix has been described to me variously as something reminiscent of an out-of-control fraternity house, a biker bar from the movie “Mad Max”, or someplace from the HBO series “Deadwood”. The local chapter of Hell’s Angels would hold meetings in the place, there was a bar fight nearly every evening, and everything from rampant drug activity conducted by employees to prostitution and underage drinking was a normal occurance. Police responded to calls at the Golden Pheonix at least twice a week, often with ambulances. Patrons even described having to wipe the blood off the bar when they sat down to order a drink.
It was somewhere to go if you enjoyed spectacle and excitement. One patron described a time when someone rode a motorcycle into the establishment and started doing doughnuts inside the place on the concrete floor until the overwhelming stench of burnt rubber forced an impromptu evacuation. Another provided me with photographs of Mardi Gras at the Golden Phoenix in 2004, complete with public sex acts performed by the bartender on customers. Usually I would forego publishing these, but documenting the outrage that was the Golden Pheonix is important in demonstrating the clear distinction between these two establishments and how they were treated. For those with a burning desire to see evidence of what happened at the Golden Phoenix, I’ve cleaned some of the photos up a bit for you:
photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4 (removed, see update)
You might imagine that a place like The Golden Pheonix would get a lot of scrutiny from law enforcement and public officials, given the completely out of control nature of the place. You’d be wrong. The owner came before the Manassas Park City Council on November 4th, 2003 for a hearing on whether to grant a conditional use permit, the previous one having expired in 2000. During that hearing, Police Chief John Evans made no mention of the trouble the place was causing and failed to provide a detailed listing of the calls which had been made over the past year (unlike what they did to Rack & Roll earlier, when they even included incidents that didn’t even happen at Rack & Roll). With all the insanity going on over at The Golden Pheonix, they kept their liquor license (including hard liquor), weren’t forced to use plastic cups as was required at Rack & Roll, were granted a Conditional Use Permit for live music, and cautioned to have live music only between 9PM and 1:30AM and keep the rear doors to the place closed. They were never investigated, fined or targeted by the Joint Narcotics Task Force. They got a pat on the back, all the permits they needed, and allowed to operate something positively destructive to the character of Manassas Park.
The problems at The Golden Pheonix became so troublesome, with frequent trouble spilling into neighboring establishments, that eventually Dave Ruttenberg had to take action to do something about it. Underage patrons would come to Rack & Roll after having alcohol at the Golden Pheonix. A woman fleeing an argument at The Golden Pheonix sought refuge from her Bowie knife wielding boyfriend who had to be taken down by Rack & Roll’s bouncers. An irate, drunken Golden Pheonix patron who was refused entry assaulted a Rack & Roll bouncer. First David Ruttenberg begged the police to conduct an undercover drug buy at the establishment, and an undercover police officer was able to purchase cocaine from the bartender, who was successfully prosecuted. With evidence of illegal behavior by Golden Pheonix employees, certainly something would be done about this place.
But life went on as abnormally as usual after that at the Golden Pheonix, with drunken underage girls wandering into Rack & Roll on a frequent basis, which posed a serious problem for an establishment with a permit to sell beer. David finally walked over to The Golden Pheonix to talk to the owner, whom he actually caught in the act of molesting an underage girl and giving her alcohol. He demanded that the owner immediately close the place, or allow David to send his bouncers over to control the underage access and calm the place down. That evening, the owner of the Golden Pheonix locked the place up, and it never reopened. The Golden Pheonix wasn’t shut down because of law enforcement action, oversight by the city council, or any other official act. It was shut down because a neighboring business owner, David Ruttenberg, got so fed up with the insanity that he took action to shut it down himself.
There were never any consequences for The Golden Pheonix. Never a fine, never an investigation into illegal activity unless David himself begged it to be done, never a question about a conditional use permit. At Rack & Roll, an ABC permit was revoked because of some minor flashing one Mardi Gras, the discovery of two improperly labeled beer samples, drug activity that the police were responsible for, and a very questionable allegation that the head of the Board of Zoning Appeals had once given an underage girl some alcohol while David Ruttenberg was present. At the same time, live sex acts are performed by employees at the Golden Pheonix, their bartender is dealing cocaine to customers, underage girls trade feels and who knows what else for hard liquor, and a steady stream of injured victims are carted off to the hospital. But the Golden Pheonix gets no scrutiny, and no consequences.
It kind of puts this attempt to solicit a bribe into perspective.
UPDATE: I’ve taken down the photos since I continue to be uncomfortable with the notion of posting graphic images even if I’ve taken pains to conceal the identities of the individuals in the pictures and obfuscated critical portions of the body. Suffice it to say they demonstrate various lesbian sexual acts that were performed by the Golden Phoenix bartender on several patrons while other customers at the bar looked on. They were a pretty stunning example of the different behavior observed at these two establishments, but in retrospect it’s just not necessary to provide this degree of detail.
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