Hard time at the Bada Bing

Ron Wimberly says his bar is being unfairly targeted by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department

There are no Sopranos at Sacramento’s Bada Bing, just lots of law enforcement.

There are no Sopranos at Sacramento’s Bada Bing, just lots of law enforcement.

Photo By Larry Dalton

In a run-down strip mall, near the intersection of Arden Way and Howe Avenue, sits an unassuming little bar called Bada Bing. There’s been a bar doing business at this site under one name or another for 30 years. Bada Bing’s clientele includes workers from the nearby office buildings and auto shops in the late afternoon, and young Pacific Islanders at night.

It’s a comfortable neighborhood bar: Mirrors on one wall make the place look bigger than it really is, but it’s clean and nicely lit, and it has a spacious outdoor patio in the back. For entertainment, Bada Bing has an open-mic night, karaoke and DJs throughout the week.

Bada Bing manager Ron Wimberly said sometime around 2:30 a.m. on June 30, after closing time, several of his customers were jumped in the back parking lot—which he shares with other Arden Howe Plaza businesses—by young men who were not at the bar that night. As the fracas expanded, he said, shots were fired into the air, and one man was accidentally jabbed with a knife.

Wimberly called the sheriff’s department. He said that was the only time there was trouble on the bar’s property. “We called for service because we definitely needed service that night,” said Wimberly. “I can guarantee, they can check their logs, and we haven’t gotten three calls to them since we’ve been in business.”

Now, Wimberly can’t seem to get rid of the sheriff’s department.

Since the fight, Wimberly has hired private security guards on the busy nights to keep things calm and to derail any possible incidents. He’s often at the bar until daylight, taking care of paperwork or cleaning, and is frequently the only person in the neighborhood come the early morning hours. When he sees a crime being committed, he calls to report it.

“When everybody else has gone asleep,” said Wimberly, “the mattress company, Del Taco, whatever, we’re here, they are not. So, we report it, and it comes back as Bada Bing. They have all these reports of all this activity going on, when in reality, it’s on the street or sidewalk.”

On July 5, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department began what Wimberly sees as a campaign of harassment against his club. According to the club manager, Sheriff’s Deputy Dave Leon, badge No. 804, showed up around 11 p.m., parked his police cruiser in the center of Bada Bing’s driveway, and for the next three hours, proceeded to harass anyone who pulled in. Wimberly said the officer shined his car’s spotlight into the faces of customers pulling into the parking lot, wrote tickets for anything that he could find on the patrons’ cars and trailed people leaving the nightspot. He always returned to Bada Bing. At one point, he was joined by another patrol car, and they sat in the rear of the parking lot, their driver’s-side doors facing each other.

According to a written report by Willie Chorce, a security guard hired by the club, Leon told him that he was going to “do whatever it takes to shut this mutha down. You are on my beat, and you make work for me. I’ll do whatever it takes to make it less work.”

“I don’t understand the logic here,” said Wimberly. “He’s a public servant. Is he missing the boat on what his job title is? Because maybe somebody needs to tell him what it is.”

Stacy Vanina and a friend went to Bada Bing for the first time that night. “When we were walking in,” said Vanina, “[Leon] asked, ‘What are you guys doing?’ I just kind of snapped back, ‘What does it look like? I’m going to get a drink.’”

Vanina and her designated driver stayed at Bada Bing for a couple hours, sitting at the outdoor, enclosed patio. “We were sitting outside [on the patio], and he just kept circling the parking lot,” said Vanina. “There were only a dozen people there, so it just seemed over-the-top. He just kept going around and around and around. I didn’t see the point in that with so few people there and with security guards inside.”

When Vanina and her friend left the bar, they found a ticket on the windshield for expired tags. Vanina said her friend had paid for her tags and was waiting for them to arrive in the mail.

Calls to Leon seeking his side of the story were not returned.

Leon made the news earlier this year when he and other officers allegedly used unnecessary force on African-American church ladies Andrea Torres, Precious Williams and Diane Campbell during a routine traffic stop. (See “The night they pulled me over,” SN&R Cover, April 10.) Williams contends that Leon, who arrived as backup, threw her on the ground, put his knee in her back and handcuffed her. A lawsuit is now pending.

When asked about the Bada Bing stakeout, Sgt. Lou Fatur of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department said there’s “a lot of violence” happening there. But when Leon and his connection to the earlier case were brought up, Fatur became angry and insisted all questions be submitted by fax. “I don’t care what you write, OK?” said Fatur. “I really don’t, and the department and the sheriff don’t. We’ve never got a fair shake from [SN&R], and we really don’t care.”

Meanwhile, Wimberly is holding his breath and waiting to see what happens next. “If we’re not going to have to hire security because we are going to have law enforcement in our parking lot, that works for me,” said Wimberly. “But I’m wondering if the taxpayers are willing to foot that bill. That cop sat in our parking lot from 11 o’clock to 2:30 in the morning, and that’s at about $75 an hour with benefits to sit here to harass us! So, the taxpayers of this county, including myself, are paying his salary to harass me when he when he could be out preventing burglaries or robberies.”