Police ‘pants’ nudie bar

BIG BUST? <br>George Mull, owner of the First Amendment Club, is seen here when the strip club first opened in 1998.

George Mull, owner of the First Amendment Club, is seen here when the strip club first opened in 1998.

Photo by Sara Sipes

At about 10 p.m. on Saturday, March 10, business was booming at the First Amendment Gentlemen’s Club on Hwy 99 north of Chico. The club’s manager, Stephan Dana Clark, was expecting a bachelor party at the strip bar that night and had received a request for special party favors from party-goers—marijuana, a full bar and “women who would do more than dance.”

He got a lot more than he bargained for. After he’d allegedly ushered the bachelor party into a back room stocked with alcohol and given them a small amount of pot, the party, as it were, was over.

Or so Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey tells the story. In fact, he says, the “bachelors” were undercover sheriff’s deputies who in turn alerted a team of more than three dozen police officers, deputy district attorneys and sheriff’s deputies waiting outside that the bust they’d been planning for almost a full year was ready to begin.

The First Amendment Club has long been a thorn in the side of the county. Ramsey said his office received a tip last year that the club, which is licensed only to serve juice, was a hotbed of prostitution and drug dealing. His office, along with the Sheriff’s Department, has been investigating the club for almost a full year.

That night, Clark, 52, the club’s assistant manager and doorman, was arrested for selling/furnishing marijuana and possessing a firearm (Clark is a convicted felon, a status that makes it illegal for him to own a gun). His girlfriend, Bridgett Lynn McCabe, 36, was arrested for felony possession of a firearm; Crispin Sanchez, 29, was arrested for felony possession of explosives; and Caren Ariel Naiman, 21, was arrested for possession of cocaine.

While the officers searched the bar, a sheriff’s SWAT team—dressed in full SWAT regalia—surrounded a doublewide mobile home (where Clark lived) behind the club and broke down the door.

Club owner George Mull, a Sacramento attorney who so far has frustrated official attempts to shut down his operation, said the county was over-zealous in its investigation of the club. He pointed out that police didn’t find any marijuana other than “seed and ash” in Clark’s mobile home and that the “explosives” Sanchez was arrested for were nothing more than five pounds of firecrackers.

He also complained that the police were issued a search warrant on Thursday but chose to wait until Saturday night at a peak business time to raid the club.

However, Ramsey said it took that long to organize all the teams participating in the raid. He added that the team seized “quite a bit” of evidence at the club which suggested that prostitution was allowed there, and “other illegal activities.”

He declined to say just how the investigation was conducted, how much it cost, how many officers were involved or how often they had to visit the club to collect evidence, other than that they went there “intermittently” to observe the activities.

“We had to dedicate a significant amount of time to this investigation," Ramsey said. "These are serious charges, and we think there will be additional arrests."