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Cactus Gallery's Final Showing Spoiled By Liquor Citation

Eagle Rock's Cactus Gallery went out on a sour note on Saturday when owner Sandra Mastroianni was issued a citation for serving alcohol on her premises.

Sandra Mastroianni, owner Cactus Gallery, is calling for community support after she was cited by Los Angeles Police Department officers on Saturday evening for hosting live music and serving alcohol during the Eagle Rock art institution's final reception.

With a court date for the liquor citation pending on January 3, Mastroianni took to Facebook to request that supporters send letters "explaining that Cactus Gallery has NEVER sold alcohol."

Mastroianni told Patch on Monday afternoon that Cactus's closing reception was a festive but slightly somber affair. She admits that there was live music—comprising an acoustic guitarist and three backup singers—as well as wine that was being served free of charge.

She said that 10 LAPD officers in squad cars arrived at the gallery, at which point they issued her the citation for serving wine and demanded to see a permit for hosting living music.

"There were like 10 cops—what a waste of money," she said. "I don't sell liquor, I sell art. This is a community place. The cops had never come to my gallery before. I never gave them a reason to."

For Mastroianni, the police presence at Cactus was a sour way for the community to say goodbye to a gallery that had hosted 84 Second Saturday Gallery Night receptions.

"It was a sad night and they just made it sadder," Mastroianni said. "Everybody that was here was upset. It's like they were kicking me in the rear-end on the way out. It wasn't a private party, but these were all friends of ours."

Supporters on Mastroianni's Facebook page have rushed to her support, criticizing LAPD for what they consider and overreaction to the service of wine at the gallery, a common practice among gallery owners.

However, according to the Alcohol Beverage Commission's trade manual, Mastroianni may have been in violation of the law, even if she wasn't selling liquor.

The manual states: "Giving, selling, or furnishing free alcoholic beverages at an unlicensed salon, clothing store, jewelry store, art gallery, etc. is not legal (California Business & Professions Code Section 23300). Businesses like these will be considered illegal bottle clubs if alcohol is provided to, or consumed by, customers (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code Sec. 25604)”

Highland Park-Mount Washington Patch left a message with LAPD's Vice Unit and is awaiting a call back.

Cathi Milligan, NELAart director and owner of the Glass Studio in Highland Park, said that the punishment did not fit the crime.

"Of all of the places to harass, Cactus Gallery? Four cop cars is absolutely unnecessary," Milligan said. "One of the most dedicated galleries in NELA, and that's how she goes out? With a really bad taste in her mouth."

The cops don't know what's going on here, they don't know it's gallery night."

Milligan was also concerned that the police action would enhance the community's distrust of Councilman José Huizar, whose office in 2011 was accused of seeking to impose on MorYork Gallery owner Clare Graham. 

"The same people that blamed Huizar for MorYork closing are going to rehash and have the same argument," Milligan said. "That's ridiculous."

Huizar's office denied ever mentioning fees to Graham. On Monday, Council District 14 Field Deputy Zenay Loera said that the councilman's office was unaware that the police action had taken place at Cactus. She added that CD 14 had not received any complaints about gallery night activities in recent memory, either.

A larger concern for both Milligan and Mastroianni is that gallery owners would be fearful of holding receptions in the future, for fear that they may be cited as well.

"They're gonna kill the artwalk," Mastroianni said. "That's what it looks like. As soon as the cops came everybody left."

Milligan said such police action may have a cooling effect on owners who are potentially attracted to the neighborhood.

"Artwalk will die with this kind of stuff. Nobody's going to want to participate in this," Milligan said. "We need their business, or we cease to exist. Otherwise this cute little part of the neighborhood will die and and people will say 'see, nothing good ever happens in Highland Park."

kelly thompson December 18, 2012 at 03:55 AM
The noise wasn't that loud. The Captain said no one called that they were riding by randomly and heard what they thought was live music. Stop making stuff up.
Creper Chimone December 18, 2012 at 07:14 AM
yes and they also said that the patrons told the cops that they should be fighting crime. i was just walking my dog and the cops were very present at 59th and piedmont where alot of drug and gang stuff happens, so don't say the cops aren't doing their job, they are. The fire department on 59th does alot of great work too. For you kelly and the others who don't even live in highland park or the area your opinion really doesn't hold weight because you don't live here you don't know what goes on. there is alot of crap that happens in highland park and i was glad to see the cops out tonight but if they have to waste their time because art gallerys aren't obeying the law it's the gallery's fault not the cops. obey the law and the cops wouldn't be there. you are the ones wasting their time in this case. I wonder what would happen if the tatoo parlor on fig had a "wine and cheese" with "live music" if that would be okay guess what hell no it wouldn't, an art gallery is no different, get the permit, obey the law period then there is no problem, i know you think that is "rigid" but too bad it's for the good of the community and i live here you don't. And you know what we would not be another mayberry without the "art" like someone else says, we would be a vibrant multi cultural community, there were artists here way before your gallerys were here. leave your snobbery in culver city, everyone here in highland park is equal whether you like it or not.
Lightnapper December 18, 2012 at 01:52 PM
The logic is illogical-- ad absurdum, ad nauseam. Godot, for the grace of God...we're still waiting. Please...the donkey! "Where you from, esse?" "Hey, Holmes, chill. I don' Patch man. I be pass'n." "Better skip, Homie. Dis be ER Patch territory. Can't you see the adjectives on the curb? We don' play. I'll Noun you!" [reaching for his dictionary] "Yo, fool...I'm pack'n a Verb, man. Back off!" [pulls out a well-worn thesaurus] [Clem peers over his spectacles out the open front door of the ramshackle $1,450 a month shack towards the gray Prius and the two clowns making noise at 8 o'clock at night] "Whod'a thunk, Mabel! Dem ER Hawkins and HP McCoys sure a fiesty bunch. First da Weed; now dey hooch. Get me sum dat Merlot ta clear my noggin whilst I peruse dis here art I done found in the Fresh & Easy garbage hopper." "Clem, 'member, stupid is, stupid does. Easy on dat Devil's liquor, fer ya get all snookered up. Know what happened last time." "Jus pas me the Monet, the Merlot, and me fiddle, Mabel. I intend to make ME sum noise, dagnabbit!" "Uhhh huh...jus' don' let me find you sleep 'hind no Massage Parlor again. Put a preposition where you never forget!"
nonoise December 18, 2012 at 04:32 PM
The police stopped because they heard noise. They should have kept their noise to themselves. They should have claimed to be a church so they would be allowed to break the law. Have them contact me. I will show them how to challenge the noise ticket. .I would love to sit down with th them and/or their attorney. Please contact me. I am serious, very serious. Plead not guilty. Please contact me.
nonoise December 18, 2012 at 04:37 PM
When is the court date?

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