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Rack & Roll Story Getting Legs

By Greg L | 20 December 2006 | Rack & Roll Scandal | 6 Comments

The recent dismissal of the lawsuit filed by Dave Ruttenberg against the City of Manassas Park and some of it’s officials has gotten noticed by Radley Balko, the blogger who covered the story of the huge military-style raid conducted at Rack & Roll under the authority of a routine Alcohol & Beverages Commission investigation in 2004. He writes:

Since that raid, Ruttenberg has essentially lost his bar. The state has revoked his liquor license, despite the fact that the charges against him were either paltry, or, with respect to the more serious charges (mostly, allowing drug deals to go on in his business), were instigated by the police, either by undercover officers or the informants who were working for them. They have chased away his customers with threats and harassment, spread vicious rumors about Mr. Ruttenberg around the town, and even scared off would-be buyers of the business.

There’s actually even more to the story, which I can’t get into right now, but will soon. Suffice it say, this man and his business have been ruined by the city of Manassas Park, its elected officials, and its police officers. It’s really a horrible story.

I’ve looked into this myself, and agree with Balko’s take on Dave Ruttenberg’s story. As far as I can determine, Dave Ruttenberg is being mercilessly harassed by the city when other establishments who have far worse records are getting their wrists slapped at best. I have been at a complete loss to figure out why this might be happening, and without an explanation for this this whole ordeal it has had the appearance of some bizarre conspiracy theory advanced by folks who desperately need psychotropic medication. In this day and age, why the heck would a city go out of it’s way to make life difficult for one of it’s local businessmen who at least keeps a rather unremarkable strip mall from otherwise having a lot of vacant space?

Then I remembered reading something long ago in the Washington Post about where the proposed location was for Colonial Downs to establish an off-track betting facility in Manassas Park that got defeated in two referenda, the last being in 2004. It was at the Manassas Park Shopping Center. And the location of Rack & Roll? Same place. Now is this just some sort of bizarre coincidence, or do the visions of dollar signs dancing about the heads of those who might stand to make millions in Manassas Park have something to do with the reason Dave Ruttenberg has been having such a hard time?

Maybe we’ll find out, but it’s going to be harder when the court won’t even allow evidence to be considered which would substantiate the harassment Rutternberg claims has happened. Perhaps we’ll have to find another venue for this discussion.

I think some heads are going to rack & roll.

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  1. anonymous said on 20 Dec 2006 at 5:17 pm:
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    Two little facts:

    1)Kevin Brendel used to be a DJ at Rack and Roll.

    2)Kevin Brendel supported the off-track betting facility.

  2. Greg L said on 20 Dec 2006 at 8:03 pm:
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    I think a lot of business owners in Manassas Park supported the initiative. It would undoubtably provide a boost in revenues if the gamblers that are brought in also spend money in other local establishments. And if the revenue from gambling was used to enhance the area, I’m sure business would pick up. So it would surprise me not at all to see most of the business community support the idea as it might have a direct positive impact on their wallet.

    I can understand any business owner making a decision whether to support it or not on entirely an economic rationale. What I have a harder time understanding is the possibility that local government officials might find an economic basis for supporting the initiative. If government officials had an economic basis for making the decisions they did, what were their expectations? And how did Dave Ruttenberg threaten those expectations?

  3. Anonon said on 20 Dec 2006 at 8:13 pm:
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    What other establishments are there in Manassas Park? I think the only other place with a liquor license in this city was Fat Punks and they closed to focus on catering. Fat Punks’ owner (I think) now sits on the Governing Board.

    I also remember the only business against the OTB in that entire strip was the furniture store, which space the OTB was to occupy. The Rack n Roll was for it, if I remember their sign correctly.
    It’s a non issue however - the OTB thing will never pass in this city. Ever. That was the overwhelming sentiment of the good people of Blooms Crossing and the upstanding religous organizations in PWC, who organized the effort against it.

  4. Greg L said on 20 Dec 2006 at 8:37 pm:
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    In 1996, after running a pretty competent campaign, the measure was defeated by a mere 74 votes. In 2004, after a really badly run campaign, the referendum lost by about 900 votes. In Manassas Park it’s rare to get a lot more than 3,000 voters to turn out, and the turnout can be as low as 600 in some elections. With a smart, well run campaign that’s supported by elected officials (remember Noreen Slater?) and backed by gambling dollars, defeat of a gambling referendum can’t be taken for granted. Never is a dangerous term to use in this context.

    By my rough estimate a gambling operation would bring in somewhere between 150-200 million a year in revenue from wagers, food & beverage and whatever else goes on in the establishment. Theoretically with such a small electorate and a historically poor tunout percentage, how much money do you think it would take to buy off enough opinion leaders and voters in order to win? You couldn’t do this in Prince William, because there’d be too many people to buy. But in a small locality like Manassas Park, and it’s close proximity to some of the biggest population centers in Virginia, an “investment” like this would make a lot of economic sense.

    Given what we’ve seen happen, that investment might be getting made.

  5. Anonon said on 20 Dec 2006 at 8:53 pm:
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    But you don’t understand how deeply the negativity against it ran in the newer part of the city… I was amazed by it. It was one of the reasons Noreen Slater was voted out of office, by a relatively large margin. It’s opponents - Larson and Kassinger - were elected for the Governing Board, running two incumbents out of office. That speaks louder than the 2004 voter - people were angry about it. Moreover, I think it is sort of insulting to say that an electorates votes are for sale. All the OTB people offered up were some free hot dogs and a presentation. I don’t know anyone who would be easily swayed on this subject.

    I guess we will see how it plays out, but I think you are wrong about this - OTB is dead in Manassas Park. If it comes again, we will just vote it down again. I might even be willing to make an unofficial wager about it if it ever winds up on the ballot, Greg. Probably the only type of gambling that will take place here - side bets between friends and the lottery.

  6. Greg L said on 20 Dec 2006 at 9:57 pm:
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    Yes, right now gambling is as unpopular as ever.

    But if there’s hard choices in the future due to budget problems, and there’s a chance that gambling can solve all the problems, maybe it won’t be so unpopular. Kinda makes you think.

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