Cantina land owners say city officials extorted cash
Sandra Emerson, Staff Writer
Created: 05/08/2011 07:01:38 AM PDT

UPLAND – The owners of the former Chronic Cantina property delivered a claim to City Hall last week, indicating their intent to sue for damages.

The owners are claiming damages and losses related to the City Council’s revocation of the bar’s conditional-use permit in April 2009.

The claim was sent on behalf of property owners Robert Mills and Scott Schaller by attorney Scott Richards.

Mills said their damages are close to $10 million in provable losses.

“The city has damaged our property value,” Mills said. “With no permit, the building is useless. We have two properties tied in on my loan. If I lose Upland, I lose property in Chino as well. I lost all revenue coming in from rent.”

The permit was revoked after reports were made to the council from the Police Department citing an increase in crime at the restaurant.

Mills and Schaller claim that the police reports attributed to Chronic Cantina actually occurred elsewhere in the city.

Mills and Schaller own Ronic Inc., which owns 40 percent of CC Upland LLC, which operated, managed and owned Chronic Cantina.

CC Upland LLC is part of Chronic Cantina LLC, which is owned by Keith Scheinberg and Dan Biello. The business filed a claim for $6.1 million in damages with the city last month, alleging it was extorted by city officials, including former Mayor John Pomierski, former building appeals board member John Hennes and Police Chief Steve Adams.

The city will process all claims in the ordinary course of business, City Attorney William Curley said.

“The claimants will be the sole decision maker as regards the decision to further pursue the matter should the City Council reject the claim,” Curley said. “All valid claims must be evaluated pursuant to the council’s adoption direction, and then the City Council decides as regards to its rejecting unsupported claims or addressing ones with merit.”

Until the evaluation is complete and the council makes a decision, Curley said he could not offer further information.

The claim alleges that several city officials participated in a “civil conspiracy” that led to the business’s closure. The officials were Pomierski, Hennes and his Upland-based construction company J.H. Builders, Adams, then-City Manager Robb Quincey, Fire Marshal Fred St. Ainge and police Capt. Jeff Mendenhall.

According to the claim, other individuals could be named in the complaint.

The claim says that based on the indictment of Pomierski and Hennes, a “civil conspiracy occurred.”

The claim alleges that city officials forced Chronic Cantina out of business to benefit their own, similar businesses, and to extort money from Mills and Schaller.

The claim says the conspiracy involved illegal kickbacks; “pay to play” schemes; and improper enforcement of codes, regulations and laws to force Mills and Schaller to pay the co-conspirators for permits and business licenses.

Pomierski and Hennes were named in an 11-count federal indictment on March 2 accusing them of conspiracy, bribery and extortion.

The charges outline an extortion scheme targeting two Upland businesses. The scheme led the business owners to pay $45,000 in bribes.

One of the businesses has been identified as Chronic Cantina.

Pomierski and Hennes both pleaded not guilty in federal court in Riverside on March 3.

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