Defending Small, Local Businesses: Hundreds of community members showed up to an Agoura Hills City Council meeting to fight for Sports Bar and Grill Cronies. The City of Agoura had brought criminal charges against the business for opening.
Photos by Ken Taylor
The July 14 Agoura Hills City Council meeting began with a resounding pledge of allegiance, and for the next two-and-a-half hours, local residents stood before the council demanding that criminal charges against Cronies Sports Bar and Grill be dropped.
Supporters filled the room to overflowing, some holding pro-Cronies signs, others bearing American flags and many speaking passionately before the stoic council members in attendance.
“Members of the City have targeted, shamed and slandered Cronies over the past nine months,” Dave Foldes, co-owner of Cronies, told the council. “For some of you, your objective seems to be to set us up, shut us down, lay off our employees and put us in jail — and to make examples of us. I’m baffled that some of you are so out of touch of how angry people are with the blatant overreach of government. … How did you not do your homework and understand the strength and support of the community?”
July 14 marked the council’s first in-person meeting since March 2020, and it attracted a large level of public participation. More than 40 speakers engaged in public comments, and 38 submitted written comments.
Sharon Consoli, a 23-year resident of Westlake Village, attended the meeting because she said she was fed up with government overreach.
“I’m tired of elected politicians who think that they are our kings and we are their subjects,” she told the Conejo Guardian prior to the meeting. “We the people are their bosses, they are our employees, and I’m tired of them treading on us and being tyrants.”
The council’s legal charges against Cronies came out of an unrecorded, closed-door meeting in which Mayor Pro Tem Debora Klein Lopez, Councilwoman Illece Buckley Weber and Councilwoman Linda Northrup voted to charge Cronies criminally. Mayor Denis Weber and Councilman Chris Anstead did not vote to charge Cronies.
Klein Lopez attended the July 14 meeting virtually — a choice one attendee called a “power move.” Her on-screen presence prompted commenters to give her nicknames such as “Zoom Lady.” Councilwoman Northrop did not attend the meeting at all.
‘We the people’ speak
Heather Day, a longtime patron of Cronies, was one of many to warn the council members of public backlash if they continued to pursue businesses.
“I strongly encourage you,” Day told them, “to rethink your decision and stop any further persecution of this business and every other business that has suffered needlessly under your tenure as council members. If you continue this travesty, we will work tirelessly to ensure that you’re all voted out of office.”
A number of speakers spoke of recalling the elected leaders, pointing to their efforts against Linda Parks, the Ventura County Chairman of the Board of Supervisors (district 2). Some in attendance brought “Recall Linda Parks” signs, apparently as a warning to council members.
Some speakers had never met Foldes, but came to defend freedom.
“I don’t know this man,” Ryan Peterson said during his public comment. “I don’t know you ma’am [pointed to Councilwoman Buckley Weber]. I don’t know you ma’am [pointed to Councilwoman Klein Lopez], but I’m inspired by him and I’m disgusted by you — not by you personally, but by the job that you’re not doing, by the dishonor that you’re doing to that chair, and to these people. You govern by our consent. You work for us.”
One woman, a 30-year naturalized citizen, came brimming with support for freedom.
“I don’t like sports, and I don’t drink beer and I’ve never been [to Cronies], but I’m here because I love America,” she said.
“[Cronies] has acted in the best tradition of America, to stand up and to be courageous in the face of tyranny — to be virtuous, to be energetic, to be industrious, to keep their doors open on behalf of their employees and on behalf of their community. … Without that kind of defiance in the face of governmental overreach, America would never have been founded.”
Multiple naturalized immigrants likewise spoke out on behalf of the freedoms they cherish. Vadine told the council he had once been deceived by his government, the Soviet Union, and then gave the council members a lesson in socialism.
“Socialism is the worst possible society and whatever people can imagine, and it always follows with the death, imprisonment, lack of freedom,” said one man, who was once imprisoned for his anti-Soviet efforts. “In the Soviet Union [there] was a minimum five years of imprisonment for having a business. What I’ve found lately in the last ten years [is that] the American government was infiltrated by socialists all over on many different levels. … I belong to the group of Americans, who fights for the freedom because I know [what] freedom cost[s]. It’s very costly. … I’m hoping that you’ll make a right decision and do the right thing for the freedom of this country and this county.”
One speaker, attending via Zoom and identified as Michelle, chastised the council-women for disgracing the female sex.
“This city council has two men and three women,” she began. “That should be something great for women, but you know what? It’s not. And as a woman CEO and leader, I am ashamed of you women because we have done so much to get to where we are today. There are people who say we can’t be leaders because we make rash decisions out of anger, based on emotions, and here we’ve been saying, ‘No we don’t,’ and guess what? We have three disgruntled, scorned women making decisions based on their emotions and anger because they’re not happy that Cronies stayed open. And you know what? You may lose your seats to men because of that, and it’s a sad day for women because of you.”
Cronies and many other businesses standing against local mandates are part of the BRAVE coalition (Businesses Representing American Values and Enterprises) that has formed to resist unconstitutional mandates. Massimi Forti, owner of Novo Cafe, fellow member of BRAVE and a friend of Cronies, came to the meeting to support the owners.
“Cronie[s] and Pizza Cookery [are] actually the one[s] that inspired me to rebel against this measure that L.A. County was trying to enforce upon the small business owners,” Forti told the Guardian.
Novo Cafe has likewise defied unconstitutional local guidelines. Since then, Novo has had its conditional use permit revoked and its health department license suspended, and has received fines accumulating to roughly $80,000.
BSF Gym in Ventura, another business in the BRAVE coalition, faces a similar situation as they fight criminal charges brought by the county. Lindsey Cohn, co-owner of BSF Gym, offered comments to the council during an interview with the Guardian.
“It’s never too late to do the right thing. We all have to own up to our choices later, and I don’t think this is something they’re going to want to live with,” she said.
Should the Agoura Hills City Council choose to move forward with the charges, they face a confident opponent in Ronda Baldwin Kennedy, who will represent Cronies in court. Kennedy touted her victories against Ventura County during the council meeting.
“When I defended the eight businesses in Ventura County, many of them here today, like the Pizza Cookery, we took on the entire county and defeated them,” Kennedy told the council members. “They did not win. We won. I think that the City of Agoura Hills needs to take the example of Ventura County and dismiss the lawsuit. Trust me, I will enjoy going to trial with the City of Agoura. I know the firm that you contract with to go to trial with. I’ve been to trial with them before. I can tell you right now, it’s going to be a very different outcome. Not only that, but when these guys decide to let me off my leash and start filing the civil lawsuits, the City of Agoura is going to be spending a lot more money than that.”
As they had all night, those in attendance applauded and voiced their approval of freedom.