WALNUT CREEK -- The Vice Ultra Lounge nightclub went dark last week, but the drama continues.
Club owners say their business was destroyed by bad publicity resulting from police harassment, and co-owner Matt DeLima has filed seven complaints against the police department for alleged illegal treatment.
"I don't have a problem with the police," DeLima said this week. "It is Lt. Steve Gorski who has a problem with me. The others are just following orders."
Gorski has justified a heavy police presence at the club to help prevent fights and other rowdy behavior there. Gorski did not return calls for comment for this story, but in October Gorski told planning commissioners, "We don't want incidents to go unreported. Seeing the police can sometimes deter an incident."
The City of Walnut Creek has hired an outside independent investigator to look into the matter, according to City Manager Ken Nordhoff.
"This is not an uncommon thing," Nordoff said. "We don't have a unit for that. It is a common practice."
The City Council is scheduled on Jan. 15 to hear Vice's appeal of the Oct. 26 planning commission decision to cut back the club's hours of drink sales, from 1:15 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Mayor Cindy Silva and Councilman Justin Wedel said this week they didn't want to go into detail about the Vice situation before the Jan. 15 hearing.
"All the council members will be preparing and reading before the hearing," Silva said.
At their October meeting, planning commissioners said Vice's owners could appeal for reinstatement of the 1:15 a.m. alcohol service deadline if they show they can run their business without further problems.
Shortly before the planning commission vote, Nordhoff suspended the club's dance, or cover charge, permit in his capacity as a hearing officer.
DeLima was arrested Oct. 25 at a Shriner's hospital fundraiser at the club for collecting a cover charge without a valid dance permit. DeLima contends the dance permit rule does not apply to a charitable event and is unrelated to the use permit.
Nordhoff confirmed that the use and dance permits are separate from one another, but said both relate to operating conditions.
The former O'Kearney's Fun House location on Arroyo Avenue has been a large bar and entertainment site for 50 years, according to DeLima.
The business' conditional use permit requires food service, advertising and a cover charge not be allowed except for one special event per month, which must be approved by the police department two weeks in advance.
Increased police monitoring and enforcement of those requirements is what DeLima claims made it difficult to operate.
DeLima is a former San Ramon bar owner who recalls no police citations there and few in Walnut Creek until early 2012.
"Now my reputation is tarnished. I can't even get a job," DeLima said.
An increase in violent behavior by Walnut Creek bar customers spurred the city's Deemed Approved Ordinance in 2012, requiring all downtown businesses that serve alcohol -- not just those that come under a 2004 ordinance -- to adhere to the city's regulations.
Bar owners began monthly meetings with police to address the problem and police increased efforts to control alcohol-related misbehavior.
Vice's closure has put 40 people out of work, and Zumba classes are no longer held there. DeLima says he plans to leave town, whatever the council's decision on permitted club hours at Vice is.
Co-owner Jarad Andrews, who has not been publicly involved in Vice's battles, said, "It is over for the Vice Ultra Lounge. I may try to do something different or find someone to take over the lease."