On June 2nd, 2004 about 90 officers with the Joint Narcotics Task Force raided The Rack & Roll Billiard Club in ski masks and with guns drawn under the guise of an ABC investigation, and left about an hour later with only two warm bottles of beer to show for their efforts. After the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds this warrantless search still didn’t produce enough evidence to put Dave Ruttenberg out of business. It was then time to try something else. In order to get an ABC license revoked, generally two serious violations were needed. The drug sales orchestrated by the police at Rack & Roll was one. There was a a charge of female patrons bearing their breasts at Mardi Gras, but it wasn’t considered serious enough. The two warm bottles of beer that the beer distributor had not marked as samples didn’t get the job done either. The city needed another charge.
Enter Shannon Mullins, a 19 year old girl who the JNTF could get to say that she was served alcohol by Dave Ruttenberg. Ms. Mullins drove herself down to the ABC headquarters in Alexandria to turn herself in one day, and swore out an affidavit that she was served a Captain Morgan and Coke by Ruttenberg in May of 2004. Now it’s off to the races at an ABC hearing. Here’s the needed additional violation.
Mullins’ original statement to the police says that Ruttenberg served her the drink, and this story starts to quickly fall apart as eyewitnesses provide conflicting accounts of the story. Mullins then goes back and changes the statement to say that Wayne Houston, the chairman of the Manassas Park Board of Zoning Appeals gave her the alcohol. Funny thing about that – It was clear at the time that the BZA would be deciding the fate of Rack & Roll’s Conditional Use Permit and would likely overturn the revocation of the permit for Rack & Roll. Mullins, after being confronted with the inconsistencies in her account of what happened, can’t seem to remember who gave her the alcohol, whether it was Wayne Houston (version two of the story) or an employee names Mike Rose (version three). The eventual complaint before the ABC hearing is that Dave Ruttenberg didn’t provide Ms. Mullins with the alcohol as originally charged, but somehow witnessed her consuming it, wherever it supposedly came from. Here’s the witness changing the story before, and then again during the hearing, and instead of the charge being dismissed, it continues under this constantly evolving description of the supposed circumstances.
Of note the city subsequently sues its own zoning appeals board in order to overturn their decision and throws the reputation of Wayne Houston under the bus in the process, since he’s not following the approved script for this takedown. Play ball, or become an enemy is the clear message here.
At the hearing, suddenly the police officers who were previously solid on the facts can’t seem to remember the specifics of the complaint. No matter. The hearing officer blissfully continues on, ignoring that the story about this violation has entirely changed during the course of the hearing and no witnesses can corroborate Ms. Mullins account, even while three witnesses directly contradict her story. Ms. Mullins becomes so confused that she mistakes Wayne Houston as a Rack & Roll employee, when he’s not. She can’t remember whether folks were joking around about her supposedly getting alcohol, or whether it was about something else entirely. While Mullins can’t keep her story straight, the police officers testifying absolutely fail to keep up with the twists and turns the story takes as they attempt to evade criticism. Yet the hearing officer for some unknown reason gave full credibility to Shannon Mullins, and with that additional violation, ordered Ruttenberg’s ABC license revoked. Go figure.
This story is problematic for additional reasons. Her boyfriend at the time was a Fairfax County Sheriff’s Deputy by the name of Gary Evans, who is the nephew of Manassas Park Chief of Police John Evans. He has stated that Mullins has told him that she lied, which is entirely credible since her entire story about this incident changed multiple times, and that her fake ID had previously been seized by Rack & Roll’s staff. Perhaps most damning is the timing of this charge with the proposal of Colonial Downs to redevelop this property into an off-track betting location. The day after this charge is filed, Colonial Downs announced their plans to seek approval for the Manassas Park Shopping Center to house a “satellite wagering facility”, something which Rack & Roll could make difficult since it was the sole tenant at this location that couldn’t be summarily kicked out if the referendum that would permit this was decided in Colonial Downs’ favor.
David Ruttenberg had held an ABC license for eighteen years prior to this hearing. During that time ABC enforcement officers had conducted approximately ninety stings with underage buys, and never once had Ruttenberg or any of his employees provided underage buyers with alcohol. Ruttenberg had a perfect ABC record. This all ends when one girl whose story can’t stay consistent, which is not supported by any police or ABC agent corroboration, but yet it becomes that crucial final violation that revokes the permit and turns Rack & Roll from a profitable business to a dying one.
What a way to run a railroad.
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