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Santa Clarita Restaurant Owners Under Fire After They Openly Harassed a Fruit Vendor

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Hundreds rally to support the vendor, lining up in a huge crowd on Monday

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Folks wait in line for fruit and beverages at La Palma Fresh Fruit on July 13
Folks wait in line for fruit and beverages at La Palma Fresh Fruit on July 13
Sean L. Malin

A video showing the co-owners of Bergie’s Bar and Grill, Renee McAlonis and Michael Foster, harassing a vendor from La Palma Fresh Fruit in Santa Clarita has received more than 280,000 views on social media as of this afternoon. In the video, originally taken by Instagram user @nanonormaldude over the weekend, McAlonis and Foster confront the vendor for selling fruits and beverages on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant without a license, telling them that the police has been contacted to remove them. The videographer attempts to deescalate the situation, acknowledging their concerns by saying, “Okay, but it’s not hurting anyone, man,” and asking why Foster continued to curse at the vendor, who responded, “Aqui no mas vendiendo fruta. (All I’m doing is selling fruit). La gente aca quierre venida a legal (these people want to call the cops).”

In the video, Foster refuses the Instagrammer’s requests to leave, saying, “Get it the fuck out of here. This isn’t Pacoima. It looks like shit,” and, moments later, “We aren’t the fucking ghetto.” In subsequent footage, a deputy from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department arrives and instructs the vendor to secure a written permit and move to another location. According to @nanonormaldude, the vendor was given a warning with no further action taken.

When the La Palma incident went viral, Yelp users began review- and photo-bombing Bergies’ now-disabled business page and uploading dozens of captioned screen captures of the owners. Multiple images taken inside or around the bar have since circulated on social media, some featuring what appears to be Ku Klux Klan imagery, including white paper cups placed upside down on the iconic Bergies bar and a white hooded figure in the parking lot.

The restaurant that preceded Bergie’s Bar and Grill originally opened in 1991 inside the former home of the Sandpiper Inn on Delone Street off Sand Canyon Road. As the surrounding Canyon Country and Sand Canyon developments expanded, that restaurant became a favored stop-off for truckers and locals alike, known for its cheap steaks, happy hours, and its proximity to the busy 14 highway that extends north from the City of Los Angeles. McAlonis, a former LAPD sergeant, assumed ownership of the building in 2015 and rebranded it Bergie’s. Since then it’s been highlighted as a Santa Clarita landmark, known for its live music, burgers, and karaoke.

Members of the Santa Clarita Community Facebook page have also targeted McAlonis directly. Requests for her to step down from Bergie’s have followed the video, citing her law enforcement record and a 2012 arrest report for drug possession and carrying a loaded firearm into the Bob Hope Airport as signs of hypocrisy. Also posted were allegations of malfeasance by McAlonis and the LAPD in a 2008 case against a Black minor selling newspapers in her Valley Village neighborhood (the minor was released with insufficient evidence).

In response to the video, on July 13 thousands of locals descended upon La Palma’s new location on the sidewalk of the Sand Canyon Plaza, with larger crowds predicted for the rest of the week. @nanonormaldude posted several follow-up videos showing masked crowds gathered to buy fruit and beverages, with news crews present throughout the shopping center. While the vendor seen in the video has asked not to be named, a GoFundMe to help the vendors secure the necessary permits was established Sunday night by Nayelie Ramirez, who identifies herself as the niece of the owner of La Palma Fresh Fruit. Contributions can be made here.