By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
By Leif Haven
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Kate Conger
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The office's acting director, Sergeant Mikail Ali, a former investigator with the city's Gang Task Force, said he happened to be volunteering that night because of a spike in violent crime in the Western Addition. "This case came up, and being the most senior officer, I just took it because it was an appropriate use of resources instead of having a team of off-duty officers come in," he said. "No one from the mayor's office asked me to take that case, and I had never seen Derf Butler or even heard his name before that night. I still wouldn't know him if he was standing right in front of me."
The mayor's office also denied any connection with the investigation. But it's worth noting that a few weeks after the riot, Butler's wife, Anita Butler, contributed $500 — the maximum allowable — to Newsom's re-election campaign. It was the first political contribution made by anyone close to Butler since December 2004.
Butler said early last month that he is trying to switch his business back into a bar and restaurant by opening for lunch three days a week. He said he is also encouraged about Fanatics' regular Monday Night Football event. "We're starting to get a good crowd for that," he says with his trademark enthusiasm.
But port officials say that after working with Butler when he was $70,000 behind in his rent and being patient through all the construction delays and continued problems, they have had enough.
"We have had a lot of Derf's friends come by here and argue on his behalf, saying that we are not being fair and that he deserves a chance," the port's Reynolds says. "But after we tell them about the problems we've had with him, they leave here more mad at him than us. We also have a fiduciary responsibility to our tenants, and now we have a lot of small businesses on Cesar Chavez that have bullet holes in their walls."
On October 11, the port served Butler with an eviction notice, and on October 24, the city attorney's office padlocked Fanatics' front door and covered the windows with metal screens. Butler and his family removed what they could from the club the day before the eviction. "There's still a lot of stuff in there," a port workman said as he drilled the last screw in a steel-mesh window cover. "But it's shut up tight now."
The port will soon begin looking for a new tenant for the building. "We want it to continue to be a locally owned restaurant just like the original intention," Reynolds said. "It is not going to be a nightclub, that's for sure."
Butler still has staunch supporters, especially in the Western Addition neighborhood where he grew up. For many there, Butler is a dedicated husband and father, a businessman who has been treated harshly.
The Reverend Arnold Townsend, an election commissioner with strong ties to the Western Addition, says the port and the police have been too hard on Butler. The Western Addition community continues to be very proud of Butler, just as they were when so many people came out to celebrate the opening of Fanatics. "Everybody dressed up and went down there because this is a kid from the neighborhood who made good," Townsend says. "A kid who had some problems and straightened himself out, and that's no small thing. We don't have enough of that in our community."
Butler would say only that the eviction has been "a nightmare" for him and his family.
Port communications director Renee Dunn attended the ribbon-cutting celebration on that sunny day in 2006. What she remembers most is how hopeful everybody was that Fanatics would succeed. "I remember Mr. Butler's speech," she says. "He talked about how much he had dreamt of that day. His family was there and he thanked them for helping make it possible. I remember thinking this is really going to be something special if he can make it work. But it's been a disappointment."