ORANGE, Va. (March 28, 2017) – Motorcycle Clubs in Central Virginia are the focus of a new campaign by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) is trying to put the brakes on biker bars in central Virginia. The ABC is warning restaurants and bars they could lose their licenses by becoming a hangout for motorcycle clubs.
The ABC says this crackdown comes in response to concerns from law enforcement in Greene County, Louisa, and Orange.
An unknown biker on his Harley
John Nagro, the owner of CJ’s at Byrd Street in the town of Orange, is trying to shake off that reputation for his bar.
“The windows aren't black, there's nobody undressed in here dancing. It's not a biker bar,” Nagro explained. “Don't just say because you have a motorcycle patch on there that you're a bad guy, because it's not true.”
Nagro believes police and the ABC are targeting bikers after a dust-up between a member of a motorcycle club and another customer
“You know, they all like to play dress up with their jackets and who they are, what they are,” Nagro said. “They're good guys, they don't bother me. They don't bother anyone in this town.”
Nagro got a letter (LINK) calling his restaurant a rendezvous for an outlaw motorcycle gang.
“Next thing I know, the big boys from ABC came in and basically threatened me that I was going to lose my license,” Nagro explained.
ABC agents are handing out the letter to 30 bars and restaurants around Central Virginia, including in the town of Louisa. It describes an increase of outlaw motorcycle gang activity, but these aren't just your weekend riders.
Police describe the groups as the "one-percenters".
“Those one-percenters, the ones that create the problems for us in law enforcement and the criminal activity, is the area we need to focus on,” said Chief Ronnie Roberts with the town of Louisa police.
The ABC warns it can revoke the license of a business that becomes a meeting place or rendezvous for outlaw motorcycle gangs.
A pub in Louisa posted the letter and a sign warning bikers not to wear their colors or cuts.
“What we've done is try to make sure everybody is on the same page and not leaving anyone out, so everyone knows what the regulatory issues are,” said Roberts.
Nagro says he's losing business in this battle over rights.
“If the ABC wants to take my license, I guess they can take my license. There's nothing I can do about it, but I do believe that Constitutional rights are being violated here every day,” Nagro said.
Members of motorcycle clubs and their supporters are sending letters (LINK) to the governor and members of the General Assembly about this issue with the ABC.
The letter calls the department's actions "intimidation" and an "infringement of freedom of speech."
Statement from Virginia ABC:
Virginia ABC Bureau of Law Enforcement Region 9 distributed a letter addressed to Region 9 on premise licensees advising them of an increase in outlaw motorcycle gang activity in on premise ABC licensed establishments. This letter was created in response to information received from four local law enforcement agencies within the Charlottesville region. The letter was provided as an educational resource for licensees and was hand-delivered to approximately 30 licensees in the region during inspections and day to day interactions. Special agents are continuing to distribute the letters.
The letter includes applicable sections of Virginia Code and states that all Virginia ABC licensees should take reasonable measures to prevent their establishments from becoming a meeting place or rendezvous for members of a criminal street gang or from becoming a place where patrons of the establishment commit criminal violations. The letter also advises licensees of potential penalties that could be incurred in the event of a violation. It does not state that licensees should decline service to certain individuals and does not require any specific actions on the part of the licensee.
At their request, Virginia ABC is working with the following local law enforcement agencies on this effort: Town of Orange Police Department; Town of Louisa Police Department; Louisa County Sheriff’s Office; and the Greene County Sheriff’s Office.