From Jasper's blog:
In the last 18 months or so, St. Roch Tavern has been the target of a concerted effort to harass the bar itself and its customers. Launched by a neighbor, who in fact used to work there, it has become a purposeful, obsessive attack which has spilled out on occasion to the neutral ground. While there hasn't been a ticket for anything written inside or outside the St. Roch in four years, according to one of the bartenders there, the police have been called over petty complaints repeatedly by this neighbor. The City Council person, Kristin Gisleson Palmer, has also gotten complaints. Formerly a partner in the food concern at St. Roch (not an employee, the food suppliers are separate business entities), this neighbor is on constant alert from reports I've heard. Evidently this guy and his domestic partner's sole purpose is to get the St. Roch Tavern shut down. (Who they'll harass if that happens I don't know, but it has become clear that these people are folks who need to have someone in the crosshairs in order to be happy.) The constant harassment has taken some dark turns, reports of customers allegedly being physically attacked by these neighbors aren't rare. Verbal attacks are apparently standard fare. The staff is walking on eggshells in order to avoid drama. The livelihoods of St. Roch staff are being endangered by an obsession for vengeance. I wish I could ask the neighbors why, but I have no doubt that the answer would make no sense to me.
Bar on the corner for 80 years. Neighbors doing all this? Moved into the neighborhood barely 2 years ago. We can't let this neighbor and his partner close down a business out of vengeance. Police were called on New Year's Eve. Police were called Krewe du Vieux night. The Fifth District police want to see a show of support from those of us who care about this place. They've been very good at communicating what they need from us and I applaud that. Let's help them by contacting them, signing petitions, patronizing St. Roch Tavern.
The Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans (MACCNO) has been organizing in response to the controversial increase in enforcement imposed on live music venues, and issued calls for support when it was time for St Roch Tavern owner Rob Waguespack to appear before The Alcohol and Beverage Control Board.
On March 19th, Defendant Rob Waguespack, who owns the St Roch Tavern in New Orleans, appeared before The Alcohol and Beverage Control Board. NOLA Defender has detailed the hearing here: ABO Suspends St. Roch, Restricts Live Music
Prosecution forced Waguespack to answer the same questions about two employees' Facebook posts repeatedly. The prosecution, who admitted "I don't know a lot about Facebook" was unable to discern if a comment was posted on the employee's personal wall, nor could he understand if the employee was acting on her own or on behalf of the bar.
Employee Martha Wood had posted the following request for good vibes on her personal Facebook wall: "John and I are about to go meet with the "powers that be" regarding the fate of The Tavern and our liquor license. Please send positive vibes our way and all the good mojo you can. We're gonna need it..."
The conversation that ensued, along with a comment made by a friend of the employee, was introduced by the prosecution as Exhibit 11.
Isn't the reason that they'd want to get dirt on the prosecutor that they would want to blackmail the prosecutor? [56:40 from video]
"Do you know why your employee would talk to individuals to get dirt on the D.A. other than blackmail?
One needs only to examine Wood's Facebook updates for a moment to see that she does not spend time posting malicious comments on Facebook. If anything, her posts about dogs that need homes and offers to give away shoes are an asset to the community, as are her status updates that occasionally give her friends a peek into what to expect if they visit her while she's working at St. Roch Tavern. Especially in New Orleans, bartenders play a huge role in bringing in clientele. Bartenders have personal relationships with their customers; they have followings, and patrons literally follow cooks and bartenders from one establishment to the next if they change jobs.
The prosecution asked leading questions, implying that is is inappropriate for an employee or independent DJ to post the details about events at the bar on Facebook without the owner's knowledge is ridiculous. Waguespack was unaware that Martha Wood and Rusty Lazer posted details about St Roch Tavern events on their personal Facebook walls. The prosecution tried to paint a picture of Waguespack as an incompetent business owner because he did not know that his employees were posting this information. First of all, to my knowledge an employee has a first amendment right to post descriptions of public events on Facebook (unless a social media policy was issued by the company).
Also submitted as evidence was a photograph of graffiti that appeared on the wall of one of the few residents who has complained about St. Roch Tavern's noise. The prosecution argued that this graffiti appeared on Scotty Heron's home because he was mentioned in the conversation on Martha Wood's Facebook wall. At no point does anyone on Facebook post this man's address or express any malice towards him or his property. The image below was taken in a neighborhood with an abundance of graffiti; it's obviously not something written to spite Heron because he complained about the tavern. It reads "Wolfe XX Eye will Rape Yo Anus." At no point at the ABO Hearing was anal rape referenced, and it is not an issue that connects to the tavern.
The prosecution, who had no evidence of litter, provided flimsy evidence of a door being open a jar, and a suspiciously cropped photograph that makes it look like the "no loitering" sign was missing. The video showing the door that was not fully closed does not include a date or time, and the prosecution did not have a photograph of the entire front of the bar to show that the loitering sign is indeed absent. When cross-examined, Waguespack showed the well-used "No Loitering" signs that he claims have been posted on the outside of the tavern. Waguespack also stated that the prosecutions's photo that does not include a "no loitering sign" appeared to have been cropped.
The prosecution attempted to use more information from Facebook to make their case.
After admitting they could not understand the origins of a Facebook Event (an event created by an individual), the prosecution entered the event as evidence of Waguespack's violation of a city noise ordinance. The event, posted by Rusty Lazar, invites patrons to enjoy a DJ's performance at the St. Roch Tavern ALL NIGHT!
In theory, anyone can create a Facebook Event that would imply a noise ordinance would be threatened. This event should not even be considered evidence of Waguespack violating his earlier Consent Decree because it doesn't prove that noise was audible within 50 feet of the establishment. Moreover, the Facebook event is listed as taking place at St Roch Tavern; it was not posted on the St Roch Tavern page. It's maddening that this information is admissible in court when submitted by prosecutors who admitted to not understanding what they referred to as "The Facebook."
Despite the fact that they filled out cards to be allowed to speak at the ABO Hearing, advocates for St. Roch Tavern who attended the hearing were not permitted to speak, and the hearing ended with a shocking display of abuse of power. The prosecution asked the court to censor employees of St. Roch Tavern.
"There will be no disparaging of witnesses in this matter on any electronic medium associated with St. Roch Tavern or any of its employees, and if they were to so disparage any witness, they would be in violation of the terms of the consent judgment," said McNamara.
Employees of St. Roch Tavern are officially censored and were told they cannot make disparaging comments using electronic medium, or Waguespack will be in violation of the Consent Decree and could lose his license.
Not only has the prosecution managed to censor employees, it has done so with almost no understanding of Facebook.
My immediate concern is with the censoring of the employees and the evidence the prosecution submitted at the hearing.
Below is a letter the editor written by someone who attended the Hearing:
On Tuesday March 19th I was present at the ABO hearing for St. Roche Tavern in the city hall chambers. I was absolutely disgusted and offended at what I witnessed! And we did not get to speak! At all!
I really feel this whole hearing was a waste of tax dollars! This should of been resolved through a neighborhood meeting! And closing the bar for a few weeks only hurts the employees and the musicians that play there! Once again revenue the city needs wasted away!
My tax dollars pay the salary of City Attorneys Dan McNamara and Nolan Lambert. They do not represent my interest at all! They were horrible! The "evidence" was a joke! A doorman checking ID's and a line to get in the bar is not loitering! A stranger on Facebook did not try to blackmail the City Attorney! Saying the bar causes graffiti is like saying Family dollar causes crime!
Even McNamara’s star witness Ann Linn said litter was not a problem, and that noise was only a problem on Sat nights! She even said she frequents the bar and wished it not to close! McNamara even tried to intimidate us in the audience!
If it was not for my partner probably would of been arrested! I so wanted to jump up and scream!
I am a registered voter! I will NEVER forget this! What a waste of my tax dollars! ~ Alexander Flemming