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Congressional Event Abruptly Moved from Legends

Steve Kuykendall fundraiser hosted by sports bar owner has been relocated "out of the 3rd district" represented by councilman and congressional candidate Gary DeLong.

As an upcoming Steve Kuykendall congressional campaign fundraiser endured a brief game of musical chairs but remains on, political opponent Gary DeLong received a number of campaign donations at an unannounced visit to a regular meeting of Belmont Shore bar owners.

The fundraiser for U.S. Congressional candidate Kuykendall was announced for Legends Sports Bar by owner Gene Rotundo to thousands of e-recipients. But it has been relocated "out of the 3rd District," Patch has learned. The question is who decided to move it?

Rotondo won't say. Kuykendall said he doesn't know. The owner of the impending new location said that he wasn't privy to the move. Third District city councilman and congressional candidate Gary DeLong said he wasn't involved.

"I do not play any role regarding where Mr. Kuykendall holds his fundraisers," DeLong told Patch in an email.

 Rotondo, who has battled with 3rd District Councilman DeLong over bar-related issues, such as patio curfews, and has accused him of failing to support local business owners, was uncharacteristically mum on the question, referring the question to Kuykendall's office.

On Thursday, Kuykendall said that he didn't know who wanted the $150-a-head fundraiser moved to it's new downtown location, only that Rotondo called and asked if that would be acceptable, and he said, "of course."

"Auld Dubliner is actually closer to my house, so I can walk to it," Kuykendall said. "It's the same time and date, so it doesn't matter to us, and the invitations are all electronic."

He estimated that several thousand recipients would have received the initial invite announcing the Legends event, and those same thousands have or soon will receive a new invite with the new address.

The owner of Auld Dubliner, Belmont Shore resident Eric Johnson, said the event will be held at his restaurant and bar located downtown at The Pike.  He said that he was not told who wanted it moved, just that it was requested that the fundraiser for DeLong's opponent be held "outside the 3rd District," at his establishment.

"I'm in the process of buying Legends, and we won't take operational control for 30 days, so I can't speak to the particulars of that," said Johnson. "I was asked to make my restaurant downtown available for an event and was happy to do so, and would for any business-friendly candidate."

The fundraiser will be Tuesday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., and Rotondo is still hosting.

Two sources said that the Kuykendall fundraiser came sometime after a meeting of the major Second Street bar owners on the second floor of Legend's. The meetings have been held regularly on Tuesdays to proactively troubleshoot problems caused by loud or drunken bar patrons, in order to better work with residents who are impacted.

At the meeting, major property owner Bill Lorbeer, the landlord of Legends and at least one other bar, and numerous other properties, arrived to the meeting with DeLong. At some point in the meeting, several people wrote checks to DeLong's campaign, although not all owners contributed. Rotondo confirmed that the meeting took place and that he did not contribute, but added, "I will have no comment on this."

Two other sources said DeLong accepted the checks -- it's perfectly legal for any business or owner to contribute to a campaign -- and left with Lorbeer. Email and phone calls to Lorbeer were not returned. DeLong was not immediately available for comment.

Subsequently, a fundraiser was scheduled to be hosted at Legends by Rotondo, who will retain ownership until January, when various partners including Johnson will take over. The liquor license, for instance, is in the process of being transferred, so it is a transitional time.

When Patch called to ask for more details about the fundraiser, Rotondo said that it had been moved, but added little else.

Fundraising may well play a substantial role in the campaigns for the newly created 47th Congressional District, to be decided in 2012. There are 702,000 constituents, 364,000 registered voters, and the latter are spread over two counties. The registered are: 42.7% Democratic, 32.6% Republican and a full 26% decline to state, often meaning that they are independents who are up for grabs.

Kuykendall is one of three Republican candidates declared, and State Sen. Alan Lowenthal is the only declared Democrat.

Kuykendall said that he was not told why his fundraiser was moved but acknowledged that he and Lowenthal are behind DeLong in fundraising. But he asserted that he, a former congressman and state assemblyman, and Lowenthal, who has served both in the State Assembly and Senate, and on the Long Beach City Council, have represented more than 40% of the new congressional district already -- so will need less money spent on gaining name recognition. (DeLong and Los Alamitos City Councilman Troy Edgar serve 50,000 and 12,000 constituents, respectively, he said.)

"Would I like to have a deep balance? Sure," Kuykendall said. "But you raise money as you go, and like a business, you pay your bils and keep rolling. "Lowenthal has done polling that puts me second behind him as the Republican opponent... If we were all a bunch of city councilmen who had never held higher office, it might be different."

Patch did not ask DeLong about fundraising relevance. Patch will continue to cover the 2012 election bid for the 47th U.S. Congressional District, which straddles L.A. and Orange counties, as the candidate positions firm up on national issues of interest. We will report on endorsements and quarterly campaign donations periodically.

John B. Greet December 04, 2011 at 09:39 PM
Perhaps then, one possible answer is to simply place a cap on the number of such businesses that may operate within a given geographic area. While that might eventually be litigated as an unlawful restraint of trade, I think it is one approach that might work, so long as the same standard is applied in all Council Districts and not just in one part of the 3rd. If the entire city is operated in the same way in this area, how can a prospective business owner possibly claim discrimination?
tinytom December 04, 2011 at 10:39 PM
John, if a place gets over-saturated with bars, then supply and demand says that you get things as said earlier like all night two-for-one drinks, midnight happy hour, etc., and the things that come with it, especially with a young population in this new more impoverished economy. Also, there is a hard to see opportunity cost of less business for bookstores by people drinking and not able to see the words on the page clearly.
John B. Greet December 04, 2011 at 11:04 PM
Thanks, tiny. I agree that at some point a community can and should be able to determine not only the number of bars within its jurisdiction but the overall quality of those establishments as well. This is what self-government is supposed to be about after all: People deciding through their elected represtatives how their community will be managed. This is not to say that there is no place in Long Beach for a number of good old-fashioned dive bars. I love me a good dive bar from time to time. But even dive bars can be dives yet still be well-managed and at least a couple of these places on 2nd Street don't seem to be. Again, I'm not sure how much legal trade we can restrain before we run afoul of those types of laws ourselves, but I think it is clear that several places on 2nd Street are not being managed in a very responsible manner. What happens outside of these places is just not the bars' responsibility so long as the bars are not over-serving, etc. Thus it falls to the PD to enforce the laws in our public spaces and, in so doing, to put regular and transient bar patrons alike on clear notice that their drunken nonsense will not be tolerated here. Unfortunately our PD is woefully under-staffed and under-funded right now and hasn't run a replenishment police academy in *several* years. LBPD needs more cops and hiring a few laterals here and there is just not effectively meeting that need.
Nancy Wride December 04, 2011 at 11:23 PM
I wish I knew the restaurant-bar metrics more. Because it seems the residents MUST know them, out of self defense. The residents on Glendora have to be watchdogs in an upscale area like this? But it seems to me that DeLong's request for staff to study CUPs needs to be in place or decided before one more permit or license is approved. Thoughts?
John B. Greet December 04, 2011 at 11:48 PM
First, I think we need to accurately define the challenges. Yes there are some problems related to some bars on 2nd Street. Ruehle and some others can cite chapter and verse on some of the residents' horror stories. As compelling as those stories are they are still entirely anecdotal. We need valid and verifiable statistics on just how many ABC investigations and police calls for service each liquor licensee has generated (where that can be determined definitively) over the past five years and what the disposition of those investigations and calls was. With these facts we can then move forward into accurately identifying the true problem children along 2nd street. When we have done that we can then take steps to put those businesses on a sort of municipal probation, during which ownership and management will be required to clean up the bar's act or risk suspension or, if necessary, revocation of their business license. Businesses have to be able to succeed but they must do so by operating according to the community's standards, not their own.

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