On any given night at Blue Fin Cafe and Billiards on Cannery Row in Monterey, people shoot pool, throw darts or play pingpong. There are a few large circular beige couches to lounge on, and food and drink at the bar – a seemingly peaceful atmosphere.
Come 9:30pm on a weekend nights, security tightens, and all who enter have their IDs scanned, are patted down and are required to take their hats off before stepping onto the escalator that takes them upstairs to the club. Anyone with clothing or visible tattoos showing gang affiliation are turned away at the door.
One recent night there was a failure in security and now Blue Fin’s owner, Tyke Marasigan, is fighting with his landlord, the Cannery Row Company, to stay open while keeping the peace.
As Marasigan tells the story: On Dec. 3, Joel Robledo of Salinas showed up to Blue Fin just before 1am with a woman. Robledo was patted down but his friend was not, as there was no female security guard on duty. Ten minutes later, 41-year-old Robledo went up to Frank Guzman II on the dance floor and stabbed him multiple times with a knife likely brought in by his female companion, Marasigan says.
Guzman, a 27-year-old from Castroville who was allegedly unarmed at the time, fled the building, acquired a knife and confronted Robledo in front of Blue Fin where the two stabbed each other before fleeing, Marasigan continues. Both men survived and are now in Monterey County Jail, each with bail set at $1 million.
This was the only violent incident Monterey police had documented at Blue Fin in 2016. But, security issues at the Giant Artichoke, which closed Jan. 2, became a concern for the city of Monterey as things escalated in October in November.
Over that time there were at least six arrests by MPD and two shootings (outside of the city) that were linked to events at the Giant Artichoke, says Police Lt. Marty Hart. These events led up to the first homicide on Cannery Row since 1991.
On Nov. 22, there was an event called “Turn it up Tuesday,” which the Giant Artichoke promoted on its Facebook page as having “killer specials.” With tragic irony, 28-year-old Raul Melendez of Monterey lost his life that night. He was found on the 600 block of Wave Street suffering from multiple gunshot wounds at 1:41am on Nov. 23 after a dispute at the Giant Artichoke with Jorge Luis Mendoza, a 21-year-old from Salinas. Mendoza, the primary suspect, is still on the run.
When issues arise with bars and clubs in Monterey, landlords, the planning department, police and the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control get involved, says Monterey Police Chief Dave Hober.
“Any place you have entertainment these issues will arise,” Hober says. “If you don’t resolve the security issues, you will have more issues because we’ll come after you.”
The city has come down hard on bars that caused disturbances in the past, including now-defunct Mucky Duck and Doc Ricketts Lab.
Marasigan, who says he has two-and-a-half years left on his lease, is keeping his doors open for now as he works with the various stakeholders. The police will issue an administrative citation but will take no action as far as Blue Fin’s use permit for now, Hart says.
But Marasigan still has to contend with his landlord. Michael Zimmerman, president of the Cannery Row Company, says of Blue Fin’s future: “Right now that’s still up in the air.”