“We filed a claim today against the city [of San Marcos] on nine different counts,” says Matt Hall, operator of the Jumping Turtle since February 2003. The lawsuit alleges harassment, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, civil rights violations, abuse of power, exceeding the city’s police power, taking of property without just compensation, and unreasonable permit requirements, such as not being allowed to charge a cover fee. “The city acted, in a lot of ways, unlawfully,” said Hall in a phone interview.
The lawsuit further alleges, “Claimants have suffered loss of personal reputation, humiliation, anxiety, fear, and emotional distress as a result of the City’s actions.”
One of Hall’s biggest battles has involved all-age concerts, which began in late 2004. The club’s newest entertainment permit, issued in April 2009, limits live music to two nights a week and requires security guards to separate minors and adults with a yellow line on the floor, along with issuing colored wristbands to drinkers and red hand stamps for under-21 patrons.
During an April 2009 all-age punk show, over a dozen police cars and a helicopter responded to what sheriff’s deputy sergeant Glenn Giannantonio described as a “near-riot,” wherein three people were arrested, aged 17, 18, and 28. The lawsuit singles out the deputy for allegedly “harassing customers” and “creating a nuisance and disturbance.”
Now, Hall is ready to cut back on all such events. “Not every show has to be all-ages. First and foremost, we are a bar, and that’s what pays the bills. I don’t sell cotton candy or Slurpees.” Hall also wants to book more local bands.
“We just need to get back to the basics that have brought us success here at the Turtle, without so much focus on metal bands. We’ll be doing reggae, blues, straight rock, R&B, and hip-hop.” Regarding the latter, Hall says, “There are standards…we don’t want to hear [lyrics] about beating up women or ‘capping hos.’ ” The venue hosted a weekly Monday night hip-hop night in 2006 and 2007; by August 2008, only one Thursday per month was allotted for hip-hop.
Booking agent Joe Troutman left the Turtle last month, taking several shows to the Ramona Mainstage. “Joe was...not following Turtle policies,” alleges Hall. “He was doing pay-to-play, which is a major policy violation at the Turtle. The majority of his shows drew 95 percent under [age] 21, which is not conducive to our venue.”
Troutman replies, “Never has one band been shorted on the deals made with them for the shows. Also, I do not do pay-to-play. If I did, I would have a hell of a lot more people in the room.”