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Issue date: February 11, 2000

Wagon Wheel loses in last gambling bid Wagon Wheel loses in last gambling bid (February 11, 2000)

Council passes on saving the city's last cardroom

by Karen Willemsen

Council members Mike Kasperzak and Nancy Noe lost their bid to save Mountain View's last remaining cardroom. Kasperzak's motion to reconsider amending the city's cardroom ordinance, so that it would comply with California's Gambling Control Act of 1997, failed 2 to 5 at Tuesday's council meeting.

Walker's Wagon Wheel restaurant and bar, which became famous locally in the 1960's as a favorite luncheon spot for Fairchild and Lockheed employees, declined in popularity in recent years. Owner and bartender Jerry Fernandez opened a five-table cardroom at the Wagon Wheel in 1995, in an effort to invigorate his business. According to Fernandez the cardroom proved to be quite popular, enough to insure that the Wheel would be able to continue as a viable business.

But that story came to an abrupt end on November 9, when the council voted not to write a pro forma amendment to the local ordinance, as required by the state. Not doing so provided council with an opportunity to end legal gambling in Mountain View with a single vote.

That vote was hard won. At that meeting, the council split 4 to 3 in favor of letting the ordinance expire. The Wheel's regulars gathered December 1 to play a few hands for the last time.

At the January 25 council meeting Fernandez appeared to catch Kasperzak's ear with his plea for the issue to be reconsidered and a pledge to pay for any financial costs associated with enforcement of the state gambling ordinance. The bar is still open, but it's just not the same, Fernandez told the council Tuesday night.

"I feel I'm being legislated out of business," he said. "The state is supposed to govern cardrooms. I'm just asking you to allow me to stay in business and to treat me fairly."

Kasperzak told the Voice he suspected some council members who had voted against the cardroom originally, including council member Mary Lou Zoglin, would be persuaded to change their vote. Zoglin originally expressed confidence that by voting against the amendment she would not be closing the Wheel, just the cardroom.

But Zoglin did not change her vote, despite some discussion of whether the Wheel merited consideration as a historical landmark. "My interest in preserving it as a historical monument slightly overrides my concern about the gambling," Zoglin said. Nonetheless, apparently lacking persuasive evidence of the Wagon Wheel's place in history, Zoglin stood firm.

More surprising, Mayor Rosemary Stasek reversed her position on principle. "We should not rehash decisions we've already made," Stasek argued. Stasek, Zoglin, Mario Ambra, Ralph Faravelli, and Sally Lieber voted in the majority, leaving Nancy Noe and Kasperzak on the losing side.


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