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MP Saga of Rack & Roll Continues

By Greg L | 31 July 2006 | Rack & Roll Scandal | 23 Comments

According to a Manassas Journal-Messenger article the owner of Rack & Roll Billiards is upping the ante in the fight with the Manassas Park City Council and Mayor and has filed suit against them. The lawsuit looks pretty desperate to me, and I give it a very slim chance of being successful. A major weakness in the suit is that it appears to name the wrong defendents.

Regardless, this continuing story exemplifies what can happen when a business owner and the local politicians and bureaucrats fail to establish a functional working dialog. The business is an eyesore to some degree, and there appears to have been some issues regarding permits and activity at the establishment which the business owner David Ruttenberg could have managed much better. The municipal reaction to this dysfunctional relationship has been to raid the establishment in 2004 with a huge SWAT team in order to discover a whopping two instances of mislabeled packaging on an alcoholic beverage, put the establishment under a microscope with undercover police officers, and to perhaps browbeat the owner with conditional use permit requirements ever since.

Often in these instances it’s up to the municipality to display the level of maturity needed in order to achieve a resolution, as the emotional component for some business owners makes that somewhat of a challenge. To their credit, the City Council at least is providing the appearance of this maturity of late, and seems to have been giving Mr. Ruttenberg a fair shot at getting his permits in order. Now I would imagine that accomodation may be ending.

This lawsuit isn’t going to help fix this relationship one bit, and I imagine the end result will be some additional square footage available for lease in about a year. Instead of a “slow death” as Ruttenberg described it, he’s looking for a quick one and a longshot at a pound of flesh in the process. Litigation as a business strategy hasn’t worked at all with SCO, and I doubt it will save this business either. I anticipate few tears will result.

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  1. Anonon said on 31 Jul 2006 at 10:32 am:
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    Congrats… ultimately the taxpayers of Manassas Park will bear the burden of this suit, win or lose. Thanks so much Mr. Ruttenberg, thanks city of Manassas Park. Yay! :rolls eyes:

  2. AWCheney said on 31 Jul 2006 at 11:50 am:
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    If you knew more about the circumstances of the suit Anonon, you’d know that the Ruttenbergs are the victims here. But, yes, ultimately it is the taxpayers of MP who will be paying for the wrongdoing.

  3. Radley Balko said on 31 Jul 2006 at 12:34 pm:
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    I agree with the previous commenter.

    I’ve been investigating this case for months, now (I’m the proprietor of the blog you link to above).

    I’ve become a bit jaded on the use of overly aggressive police tactics. But this goes well beyond that. There are a few officials in the town of Manassas Park that have waged a war of sorts on Mr. Ruttenberg. I’ve really been blown away by what I’ve seen the last few months.

    1983 suits are difficult to win. And it’s extremely difficult to prove the kind of wholesale corruption that’s gone on in this case. But there’s not a doubt in my mind that Mr. Ruttenberg’s wholly in the right, here, and deserves significant compensation. Enough, probably, to bankrupt the town of Manassas Park. It’s that bad.

  4. anonymous said on 31 Jul 2006 at 12:47 pm:
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    Kevin Brendel was a DJ at Rack and Roll Billiards. Kevin Brendel also was, until recently, on MP City Council.

  5. Anonon said on 31 Jul 2006 at 1:11 pm:
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    Mr. Balko’s comments have made me feel even worse about the situation. Bankrupting Manassas Park means hurting the education of my children and destroying the value of my home. Hey Balko - are you going to subsidize my children’s school system? Their education? Will Mr. Ruttenberg?

  6. AWCheney said on 31 Jul 2006 at 5:55 pm:
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    Perhaps you should ask that of the real villains of the piece Anonon…you elected them.

  7. anonymous said on 31 Jul 2006 at 6:06 pm:
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    If Jones voted for the conditional use permit, as the news article states, why is Jones named in the suit?

    “The lawsuit alleges that the decision to deny the permit was based on fabricated evidence given to the council by Evans.”

  8. anonymous said on 31 Jul 2006 at 6:17 pm:
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    Here are the minutes of the meeting in Feb where the conditional use permit was denied:


  9. Anonon said on 31 Jul 2006 at 6:40 pm:
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    I voted for Treuting… sorry Cheney.

  10. Anonon said on 1 Aug 2006 at 12:07 pm:
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    My earlier comment was eating at me, so I wanted to clarify. This is my community and these are my neighbors in this city. I did not vote for Frank Jones, but I respect the initiative he has shown in this community to make it a better place to live. He is a great guy and has a big heart. I know Chief Evans to a nice man and an outstanding Christian. I do not think anyone who knows him or his family would believe or stand by the assertion that he is a liar, personally or professionally.

    I do not know the details of this case and I wouldn’t care to comment on them, but I know these men, as well as the fire chief and the Governing Board and the School Board. They are outstanding people and, whether I voted for them or not or I agree with every decision the city makes, I appreciate their service to this community. If anything, I am afraid that situations like this would discourage good people from serving our community in the future. It would be a tragedy if it did.

    I am not happy about this suit, but I would encourage people not judge the people involved until the facts of the case are heard in open court.

    And Mr. Balko, until then - kindly keep their names and that of my city out of your mouth. Thank you so much.

  11. Golem said on 5 Aug 2006 at 8:56 am:
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    The suit has nothing to do with permits, conditional use or otherwise. This suit has nothinbg to do with land use. This suit has to do with protecting all Americans, yes, even you Anonon, against being deprived of their property without due process of law (Hey Anonon, in your spare time take a look at the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America)

    What is alleged, and we’ll let the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia decide, is that your wonderful public servants, i.e., investigative officers acting under color of state law, fabricated evidence in order to destroy Mr. Ruttenberg’s business.

    Consider, Anonon, that Mr. Ruttenberg, a small business man and, I believe, a Republican to boot, has spent almost 20 years, in Manassas Park, working day and night to build a business. That’s the American dream Anonon. I’d think you’d want him to fight for that dream Anonon. I’d think you’d want him to be able to take care of his children Mr. Anonon. Or maybe he’s not Christian enough for you.

    Well Anonon, I’ve got news for you. I think Mr. Ruttenberg is going to fight this thing as long and as hard as he can. I’m confident that the good people of Manassas Park will stand up for his defense of the Constitution and, if he’s proven right before a jury, will wish him well.

  12. Anonon said on 7 Aug 2006 at 3:00 pm:
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    I don’t know Mr. Ruttenberg, nor do I care to. I do know Frank and John Evans and I am tired of seeing them slandered by people who clearly don’t. Even if he wins the court of law, which I don’t think will happen, he won’t win in the court of public opinion. A pool hall is not the kind of business I want in my community. Maybe I should start a petition and see if it is the kind of business my neighbors want as well. If the petition gets enough signatures, give it to his landlord. Organize and protest. Start a boycott of neighboring businesses in the strip mall. If his landlords miss the message with a petition, perhaps unhappy tenants would do the trick. Last time I checked, organized protest is legal in this country.

    Whether he is right or wrong, I don’t want a businessman in my community who’s colleagues, one Mr. Balko above, seem to think that he should “bankrupt the town of Manassas Park.” I can’t think of a homeowner or a parent who would want to live under those circumstances. Can you, Golem? Can you see, on the basis of what Mr. Balko said above, why I don’t want him as a neighbor?

  13. Golem said on 8 Aug 2006 at 11:23 am:
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    Go for it Anon. I think Ruttenberg will rely on the Eastern District.

  14. Anonon said on 8 Aug 2006 at 1:56 pm:
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    Let him… regardless of the outcome, I think GL’s initial assessment was right. He won’t be in business there in a year. If he is, regardless of the circumstances, my community, my family, and my children are poorer for it.

    Golem, it’s easy when it is about money. This isn’t. This is about a community I love, where I raise my family and have my home. Love - it’s a more noble motivation than anything you, Balko, or Ruttenberg have got going for you in this case.

  15. Golem said on 8 Aug 2006 at 2:16 pm:
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    Anonon. You have said you don’t know Mr. Ruttenberg. You have saidyou don’t care whether he’s right or wrong. You want us to believe your position is based on some “noble motivation.”

    I know David Ruttenberg. He is a sweet, caring individual. At the last public hearing before the Board of Zoning Appeals a young man, a patron of Rack N Roll, testilfied that Mr. Ruttenberg had been like a father to him and that he cared for and counseled the young people that patronized the place.

    I don’t know you Anonon and I want to give you the benefit of the doubt. But you’re kidding yourself if you think that (1) acting out of ignorance; (2) demonstrating hostility based on xenophobia; and (3) justifying the destruction of a man’s hard won business because he had the audacity to fight for his rights, even if your friends, public servants, are made to justify their actions is, in my humble opinion, far from noble.

    Good luck Mr. Anonon. You’re going to have to live with yourself.

  16. Anonon said on 8 Aug 2006 at 2:35 pm:
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    Listen, I am the mother of two children living in a town that he is suing. Ruttenberg’s pound of flesh will come at their expense. That money will come from schools, social programs, everything that makes this community good. I hope you and he can live with that.

  17. Anonon said on 8 Aug 2006 at 2:37 pm:
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    Oh, and I am not Xenophobic. My father was Jewish. I used the Christian descriptor because that is what Cheif Evans is - is there something wrong with that?

  18. Greg L said on 8 Aug 2006 at 2:56 pm:
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    I understand how passions can run high on an issue like this, but let’s do our best to keep this discussion as civil as possible. I don’t think anyone has really crossed the line, but we’re starting to approach it.

    Besides, the discussion of the issues here has been tremendous, and I hope we can stay focused. Nowhere else is there such in-depth coverage of the legitimate concerns of both sides as you commenters are establishing here. Let’s protect the quality of what has been established on this thread!

    Now that this is in litigation, we’re not going to get much in the way of informative public comments from the key players in this drama. This discussion is all the coverage there really is on this for right now.

  19. Golem said on 8 Aug 2006 at 3:36 pm:
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    Good luck MS! Anonon.

  20. Golem said on 8 Aug 2006 at 3:47 pm:
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    [Ed Note: this comment has been removed]

  21. Loyal patron said on 13 Oct 2006 at 2:05 pm:
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    I know Dave Ruttenberg personally. I have known him for any years. He is a great friend and will always be one no matter what. Mr. Ruttenberg is a good man trying to earn his way though life. He has no criminal backround. He has given up so much just so he doesn’t have to work for someone else and live how he wants.
    Anonon, what you do not realize is that the money that Dave is using to fight his own war against people that did him and his business wrong is his own money. Not yours or the citys or the countys. The city of Manassas Park will be losing money in the future if, and hopefully, Dave is granted a judgement againt the city, county and anyone else. Then, and only then, can you be upset with all of the people that were involved in the raid down to the last ‘paper-pusher’ because they are the ones to blame. Don’t worry though. Your kids will be ok.
    Oh, by the way, you mentioned that you do not want a pool hall in your neighborhood. So Rack N Roll is off rt. 28. Ever thought about Sharp Shooters off rt. 234 on the other side of Manassas?

  22. Golem said on 24 Oct 2006 at 3:05 pm:
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    Loyal Patron, its nice to see someone who knows Dave defend him. Anonon, who admits she doesn’t know him, doesn’t want to, and doesn’t care if he’s right or wrong, was quick to attack. In my response to her attack, I kept strictly to the facts until she justified her position, at least partially, on the heartfelt Christianity of one of the defendants in Mr.Ruttenberg’s Federal District Court suit.

    I am not a Christian but I deeply respect Christianity. Ananon tells us the her father was Jewish and I tell you that, while my father was at war, I was raised by a wonderful, loving Christian lady. However, Dave has been subject to two ugly anti-Semitic attacks by a close relative of the subject defendant as the subject defendant well knows. Aside from that, in the 18+ years Dave has operated in Manassas Park there have been numerous anti-Semitic incidents directed against him. The experience has led me to believe that there is an anti-Semitic element in Manassas Park (becoming, I believe, a minority as the Washington suburbs spread to Manassas) that thinks we are still living in the ’60s. Jews and other “evil” outsiders are not welcome in their midst .

    Jewish father or not, I became suspicious that Ananon’s comments were in truth an attempt to rally the “good real Americans” against the outsider, David. When she followed her initial comments by accusing David of demanding “a pound of flesh,” a code that alludes to perhaps the most well known and infamous anti-Semitic attack in literature, I became convinced. When I made that point on this blog, Greg L. removed it.

    The Federal District Court suit continues. If the City’s motion to dismiss is defeated, the City and the other defendants will be subject to discovery andmuch will become public. I anxiously await that day as I think it would be a great victory for the Constitution and the people.

    Loyal Patron, while I doubt it, I hope you will get a chance to read this before its also removed.

  23. Loyal Patron said on 24 Oct 2006 at 5:54 pm:
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    Thank you for the comment. It is nice to finally be able to share my thoughts with someone else who agrees. I am tired of everyone coming down hard on him. Those people are only getting one side of the story, which is not Davids, no matter how many times it has been twisted around by other people. I don’t care who’s Jewish or who’s not. All I care about is who is a good person living up to good standards and whos not. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. It’s just that when personal opinions become the matter of scrutiny and not one single person wants to or cares to know the facts which can alter an outcome of any situation. This current situation will, in fact, have a good outcome. It’s about time the good people around here deserve it.

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