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Walnut Creek’s Crogan’s Fighting For Its Right To Party In The Face Of Increasing Criticism, Scrutiny

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Lamorinda, Walnut Creek, Moraga business beat.

UPDATE: Today’s special hearing on Crogan’s future has adjourned and been continued to Dec. 5 after additional information is presented to the city council. A number of citizens addressed the council on both sides of the issue. For now, it’s business as usual at the bar.

Efforts by city and state officials alarmed by the number and severity of incidents at or in the proximity of Crogan’s Sports Bar & Grill in Walnut Creek could force the venerable establishment to close, it’s owner said in her appeal of a city decision to curtail the bar’s hours.

Owner Patricia Wilkinson wrote in a attachment to an appeal filed Oct. 24 that forcing the establishment to halt liquor sales at midnight and ordering it to close at 12:30 a.m. would spell the end of operations for the 38-year-old fixture in the Walnut Creek club scene.

Wilkinson and her attorney are appealing planning commission findings which deemed the saloon a public nuisance – requesting that alcohol sales be allowed until 12:30 p.m. with the business closing its doors at 1 a.m.

Initial indications are that the council, calendared to meet with Wilkinson and hear her appeal at their meeting Tuesday night, may be inclined to deny it. City staff points out that Crogan’s was granted “deemed approved” status as an existing restaurant with full alcohol service in 2012 – with “hundreds” of calls for police response to “serious and violent incidents” since that time.

In August, a man named Courtney Brown left Crogan’s after drinking there one Saturday night, only to be confronted and shot down by another man just across the street. A Bay Point man was subsequently arrested, police hinting that the shooting was a squabble over drug turf by members of a Bay Area gang.

In October, the planning commission determined that Crogan’s constituted a nuisance and imposed a series of 15 conditions regulating its operation, prompting Wilkinson’s appeal and point-by-point rationale for why she should be allowed to run the business as before.

Two days after she filed her appeal with the city, the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), also wrote that the bar was under investigation for allowing or for being involved in incidents resulting in cases of public intoxication, overserving of patrons resulting in alcohol poisoning, fights, assaults and batteries, and incidents of domestic violence.

ABC investigators furnished Wilkinson with a summary of calls for service to the bar between September 22 and October 19 – the period when the planning commission was weighing revocation of Crogan’s Deemed Approved status, and found:

A man in need of hospitalization for alcohol poisoning after drinking at Crogan’s, though he could not remember how much he had had to drink. A breath test revealed he was four times over the legal limit.

On Oct. 15 officers reportedly spotted a man racking a shotgun while standing in the middle of Locust Street between Cypress and Mt. Diablo Boulevard at 12:24 a.m., officers determining that two men had argued inside the bar and that one man had brandished the weapon at the other when they reached his car. Officers said Crogan’s security staff had not advised their department of the incident prior to the encounter, and that they took the shotgun away from its owner at gunpoint.

That same night, at 1:31 a.m., officers said a man walking out of Crogan’s was set upon by two men at Cypress and Locust Street after making derogatory remarks. Both men were eventually found and arrested for public intoxication – one after a short foot pursuit.

And the next night, officers reported, they responded to the 1600 block of Cypress Street for a disturbance involving as many as a dozen people. It was determined that the group had been ejected from Crogan’s for fighting inside the business and had picked up where they left off once outside. One of the party was located and arrested for DUI, according to police, who noted that security staff had not reported the initial fight to police.

31 COMMENTS

  1. If outlier events are ignored, it doesn’t seem that the negative side effects of this bar have materially changed in 38 years. I’d wager that the number of DUI drivers (for example) who stagger out the door and on to our roads has gone *down* significantly over that time span.

    Why crack down on them now? Or should we make business-viability-determining policy decisions based on small (but vocal and organized) groups who presumably would have favored closing it down 5, 10, 20, 20 or 25 years ago…..

    I think we should have a stronger presumption of freedom.

  2. I can’t imagine that the community isn’t behind this action. I support the City’s tough love stance 100%.

  3. This place should’ve been closed a few years ago. Do the residents of Walnut Creek (and surrounding businesses) a favor, and close this place for good. Enough is enough.

    What part of public intoxication, overserving of patrons resulting in alcohol poisoning, fights, assaults and batteries and incidents of domestic violence don’t people understand?

  4. Very funny thread about this on your Facebook page. That’s the thing about Crogans, you either love this place or you hate it.

  5. I have stopped in a couple of times and never felt I was taking my life in my hands. Had a pretty good burger and didn’t see anyone get murdered. I can see that a nighttime party crowd might be a different issue, but I’ve enjoyed the place when I was there.

  6. Never been. Judging from the comments it sounds like a cross between a mixed martial arts cage fighting ring and a country kitchen. Which is it?

  7. @Mara I’ve only been to the one in Montclair and only know of the one in Walnut Creek because they are always in the news.

  8. I have seen VERY drunk people at Crogan’s and other bars in town so while I’m sure people are getting overserved I’m not sure every bar or bartender can play mommmy and daddy to drunken adolescents of all ages. I think if people want a drink they’re going to find one somewhere in town. And if you’re saying that alcohol makes some people behave like simians you won’t get any argument here.

  9. Saying some drunks behave like simians is an insult to simians. I bet apes have better manners than most drunks I’ve seen downtown.

  10. So I am assuming they have evidence to suggest Croghans is worse than other bars in the area right? Because you have to ask why they are concentrating on one bar and not others

  11. @Layla I believe they have cracked down on other bars in the past such as the Vice Lounge, and yes, there appears to be ample evidence that Crogans is indeed a “cesspool”.

  12. Are there certain nights where this is most likely to happen? Say Friday and Saturday nights? Maybe if they cut off alcohol sales early on those nights.

  13. Did the terminator guy think no one was going to notice that he was walking down the street with a shotgun?

  14. Apparently a WCpd officer told the tv that they are coming to party in Walnut Creek because it’s easier to bring their guns in. No searches or wanding at the door.

  15. Pretty soon going to your neighborhood bar is going to be about as much fun as going through the airport security line for a flight to Tel Aviv.

    • Funny line, Aaron, but we sure hope not… having gone through some pretty heavy security checkpoints in our day.

  16. Wait, did any of the guns actually make it into the bar? Or were all these incidents outside? It sounds like people are drinking, get into an argument, and are going outside to get their weapon.

  17. I went with friends years ago and have been back for a reunion but I’m not such a big fan any more. Drinking is much less important to me now. How old are the people getting into trouble down there?

  18. When I turned 21 in the early ’80’s, my buddies and I used to go there to meet older women. The women were in their early 30’s!

  19. If enough people patronize it to keep it in business then it, by definition, is providing a service to the community. If we want a free society, we have to allow stuff we don’t personally like.

    I am terrified of a world where I may only do things that a majority of my neighbors approve of. That is not freedom.

  20. Sounds like the bigger issue is the fight or fights happening are being pushed out of the establishment but the place isn’t going out of the way to let Walnut Creek Police know. Being a cop and dealing with drunks fighting must be right behind domestic disturbance calls.
    ..
    I guess the business side of that the argument is a lot of short term gain by being on good side of the drunks and late night party crowd. The long term downside of that is you also you piss off the police, the neighbors and eventually city is forced to take an action that is vital to the existence of your business.

  21. @Time E: A rational rule would apply some revenue from liquor licenses and sales taxes on (consumed-on-premises) booze to fund additional local police resources to patrol bars and respond to the inevitable incidents that occur from time to time. At some level, this probably already happens “implicitly,” but it would be better to make the funding linkage more direct so the bar owners couldn’t “free ride” on policing costs paid by residents who don’t party and fight in the street…..

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