Wrestling with Security at a California Concert Venue

Oct. 24, 2005
Despite precautions taken, security officials overwhelmed by concert violence

The owner of the rural Pozo Saloon says the bar remains a safe venue for concerts, despite the fights that led to the arrests of eight men following a rap concert this weekend.

Sheriff's officials said several brawls broke out during and after Saturday's outdoor concert, which drew about 1,000 people to Pozo, a tiny township east of Santa Margarita.

But bar owner Rhonda Rodenberger characterized the scuffles as "after-hours stupid stuff" unrelated to the event.

"The Sheriff's Department made it seem as if we were completely out of control," Rodenberger said Sunday. "We had no incidents, no problems."

Rodenberger said she called the Sheriff's Department on Friday to tell them about the concert featuring members of the rap groups E-40 and G-Unit.

It's an invitation she extends before every event, she said.

"I just want people to know they're not isolated," when they visit the saloon, said Rodenberger, who has owned the bar for 21 years.

But sheriff's officials were spooked. Both groups have a history of rowdy concerts, "feature gang-themed lyrics and advocate violence against law enforcement," sheriff's Sgt. Aaron Nix said.

"The situation that was created on Saturday had the potential for extreme violence," sheriff's Sgt. Brian Hascall said. "We did see a certain level of violence because of what happened."

Rodenberger said the bar's 25 security officers took full precautions -- frisking event-goers before they entered the concert grounds, looking through backpacks and checking IDs. A private security officer was stationed behind the stage.

It wasn't until after the 41/2-hour concert ended at 5:30 p.m. that the fights began, she said.

Sheriff's deputies arrested six men between 7 and 8 p.m. on suspicion of fighting and creating a public disturbance. Two were arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon for kicking a fellow concert-goer in the head.

The victim was taken by helicopter to Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton, Nix said.

All other injuries were treated on the scene, Hascall said.

Hascall said the Sheriff's Department plans to work with the bar to prevent future incidents.

"Occasionally we have a concert that erupts in violence," Hascall said. "We want to prevent that from happening."

But Rodenberger said there isn't a problem.

"We've had thousands of people go through the Pozo Saloon, and we've had little to no problems," she said. "We actually had more problems at the George Thorogood concert than this one with fights and rowdiness," referring to a performance by the classic rock artist.

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