As discussed previously, Pizzeria Toro has been out of commission following a fire in early November. With no restaurant at which to work, the staff decided to keep busy by hosting a charity event for PORCH at the Cookery in the interim.
We found a sitter and headed over for the 8:00 p.m. seating (we live like three blocks from The Cookery, so this location always makes me especially happy). When we arrived, lots of people from the 6:30 seating were still hanging out, enjoying some signature drinks (and even Ponysaurus on tap!) at the bar. In the background, a movie was playing on the projector with the sound muted.
I got some crazy hibiscus champagne thing at the bar (cause I have high blood pressure) which was pretty good. The SO started with a margarita, but somehow managed to trade it for some crazy bitter concoction (the details of which escape me at the moment). I’m kicking myself for forgetting to circle back around to try the Ponysaurus, but maybe next time.
Upstairs, there was a dude with meat. Lots of meat! He was shaving tiny little slices of some kind of ham, which was super yum. Problem: the meat slices were really tiny! Solution: scoop up a whole lot of them!
Before the dinner proper kicked off, Cookery owner Nick Hawthorne-Johnson and the Pizzeria Toro owners (mostly Gray Brooks) opened with some touching words both about the restaurant and about the role they want to play in the community. PORCH was represented as well.
Food! ‘Twas good: salad, two varieties of spaghetti (one with marinara, one with anchovy sauce), garlic bread, and some seriously kicking meatballs. Afterwards, hot cocoa, coffee, and cookies were to be had on the patio. Temps were in the 30′s, so bundling up beside the fire or heaters was a must.
TL,DR: it was neat! I highly recommend that you check out the “Toro Dreams of the Chupacabra” followup, which is scheduled for Monday, Dec 9, and will feature Mexican street food (including goat, of course). This time, proceeds will go to Urban Ministries of Durham.
Program note: I’ve been busy. I haven’t forgotten about you guys, though! My “regular” schedule should resume later this week.
Several days after a youth died in DPD custody, a group of people showed up at DPD HQ to protest last night.
At least three people were arrested Friday night when a march by people protesting the death of 17-year-old Jesus Huerta while in police custody turned destructive at Durham Police headquarters.
An estimated 150 supporters of the Riverside High School student gathered at CCB Plaza downtown, and the crowd swelled to about 200 as they marched toward police headquarters around 8 p.m.
“It’s just that I’m frustrated that we have cases that go back a year that are still in the system,” he said. “We need to be moving forward. That’s all. We need the information, we need the results of the investigations, we need to be able to move forward.”
In the PR biz, you typically want to “get ahead” of bad news before it passes a threshold of public awareness. You know – confront it head on, control the messaging around it. That’s because 1) the truth usually will come out regardless, 2) until it does, people are free to let their imaginations run wild assuming the worst, and 3) it tends to make the problem “go away” faster than having it linger in limbo for ages as people are left to speculate.
Earlier this week I expected that Lopez might keep mum until the SBI investigation was complete. Now? I don’t think so. He has to
fall on his sword get control of the situation before things get worse.
If he doesn’t do something soon, there’s going to be more than just his job at stake. This could get really bad.
EDIT: to clarify, I didn’t mean to claim that resignation is the right play for Lopez; I just think he has to do something very visible very soon to take responsibility (whatever it means in this context; we still don’t know) for what happened. The “not willing to interfere with SBI investigation” line is not going to be adequate if things escalate (even though the Council has his back on it for now at least).
Protests up to now had all remained civil. The “outside agitators” (as the H-S described them) who showed up on Saturday are ready to up the ante, and there’s now a serious risk that they’ll turn the legitimate concern from citizens about the DPD’s actions into an excuse for violence. Lopez can’t allow that to happen.
You’ve probably heard something about this story, in which a 17 year old man named Jesus Huerta died of an apparent gunshot wound to the head while in the back of a DPD cruiser earlier this week. This is the latest in a string of deadly interactions between suspects and the DPD, and the police department was already under pressure from some citizens for how it handled cases earlier this year.
WRAL is reporting additional details as of yesterday. They spoke with the family of the teenager and retrieved 911 records, which suggest that the family themselves had called the cops on Huerta because they were concerned that he might take his own life:
Huerta’s mother, Sylvia Fernandez, said Wednesday that her son ran away from the family apartment on Washington Street, and she wanted police to help. Fernandez, who doesn’t speak English, asked her daughter to call police.
In a recording of the 911 call, the sister told the call-taker they were worried because the teen was using drugs and once tried to take his own life. But the family said Wednesday Huerta never tried to kill himself.
An officer arrived about 10 minutes later, Fernandez said, and another officer radioed to say the teen was picked up about two blocks away from the home.
The DPD is being essentially silent about this case, confirming only the most basic facts and revealing nothing else. The officer involved is on paid leave (which is standard operating procedure for events like this) and the SBI has been called in to investigate.
It’s too early for the public to know with any certainty what happened here, but it’s difficult to avoid speculating that the LEO might have done something wrong. The 911 operator was apparently told that Huerta was a suicide risk in the past. Did the operator relay that to the LEO? Did the teen somehow manage to shoot himself in DPD custody? If so, how did he get a weapon? Did he have it with him when he was picked up? Was he thoroughly searched at that time? Was he cuffed?
I think the DPD’s silence is telling, and I imagine we won’t really know what happened until the SBI gets done with their investigation. WRAL and the other local outlets can mine publicly available information in the interim, but that will only reveal part of the picture.
One thing’s for sure though: Lopez is not having a good year.
Immediately following the fire a couple of weeks ago, the only real news coming from Pizzeria Toro was a tweet stating that they’d be closed for “a bit.” Today they broke radio silence with an official statement to the H-S:
“We’re basically waiting for the inspection process to play out, which has to happen before they … allow work on the building,” Brooks said. “We’re hoping to be open by the New Year,” he added.
It’s a bummer that they’re out of commission for so long, but the good news is that they’re planning a (cleverly named) “Toro Dreams of Spaghetti” event with the Cookery in the interim. Proceeds from the event will go to the PORCH Durham nonprofit.
Toro wasn’t the only business hit by the Nov 4 fire, either. The Cupcake Bar and Bullseye Bicycle (aside – we went from having one bike shop in the area to having like a dozen, I HAVEN’T EVEN CHECKED THEM ALL OUT MAYBE I NEED MORE BIKES SO I HAVE A REASON TO!?!) also shut down immediately following the fire, but both businesses are back up and running now.
I’m going to the 8:30 seating of “Toro Dreams of Spaghetti.” Come say hi!*
* Sorry, no autographs
I just rode around town aimlessly for a bit, and remembered two important things while doing so!
First, 2013′s final food truck rodeo is setting up presently, and is slated to run from 12:30 to 16:30 today. The forecast is kind of iffy on the rain front, but the temperatures are nice and warm. There are heckuva lot of trucks out here (yeah, sorry, crappy cell phone pic included):
And next up, the Old North Durham park is re-open for business. They’ve resodded the field and redone the drainage system, and it looks really nice. As if you needed another reason to hang out around Foster and Geer!
So, I’ve got news! I guess I forgot that this is a thing I do? Join me for a trip through the way back machine, as I look at headlines dating back to mid October…
- Do you remember fondly the 2005 streetscape project, which made the then-mostly-vacant downtown area look like some kind of war zone? Well, good news for you! A major water line project is going to tear the place apart – again.
- Did you actually think that the ATT bridge might be finished in 2013? Well, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.
- There’s a bit of a hubbub over the likely demise of “free” parking on Ninth St. Despite protests from some businesses, the Council appears to view metering as an inevitability both on Ninth and downtown. Metered parking tends to increase space availability and improve throughput, a fact that some Ninth St. retailers do seem to be aware of, but some retailers are protesting the plan out of fear that they would lose patrons. NB: “free” parking in commercial areas is of course paid for by taxpayers one way or another, so its presence amounts to a subsidy for the businesses where it is present.
- There’s continued hemming and hawing about Durham’s anti-panhandling ordinance. The policy has forbidden soliciting near highways, but some groups are pushing to have it rolled back.
- This church lady managed to embezzle $80,000 from her employer, Freewill Baptist Church. She even seems a bit indignant that the church actually called the cops on her: “It was always my intention to repay it, but the church did not see fit to allow me the time I needed to do that.”
- A county law which required employers to encourage carpooling was repealed after being pre-empted by state level legislation that forbids such local ordinances. This came on the heels of a similarly mandated repeal of the “living wage” law which applied to some government contractors
- Monthly water bills are rolling out in conjunction with the new radio-readable meters.
- Baguetteaboutit has opened a standalone restaurant to complement its popular food truck.
- The County Commissioners look poised to contribute $200,000 to help acquire 134 acres for a park near Falls Lake. The funds would be pooled with $500,000 from the state, $250,000 from the city of Durham, and $250,000 from Raleigh to acquire the parcel from Southview Development LLC. The local governments are especially keen to prevent development in this area to help preserve the water quality of Falls Lake.
- Speaking of water quality, Durham’s going ahead with regulations designed to protect reservoirs despite the legislature’s removal of a mandate which would have required such regulations.
- DPS teachers joined with their colleagues across the state to protest the state’s education funding policies.
- You can hunt deer with bows now, even in the city limits. Lest you cry for Bambi, remember that these things cause numerous traffic accidents and damage foliage.
- There’s a cool new mural on the wall of Torero’s.
- There’s a public meeting tonight to discuss what to do with the old Social Services building off Main St. The county is proposing demolition and conversion to a small park (which I’d translate as “a vacant lot with grass.”)
- Duke police are going after bike thieves, using dummy bikes equipped with GPS trackers.
- Comicon happened!
- Another weird Democratic Party ritual has installed Graig Meyer as Valerie Foushee’s replacement as District 50 House representative.
- Jury duty got you down? Don’t worry. The new courthouse will have you living large on the taxpayer’s dime.
- EdR’s “605 West” construction is moving along . The 338 unit apartment complex is being constructed on the former site of the abandoned Holiday Inn / Urban Merchant Center near the DPD.
- Trail advocates are proposing declaring the abandoned rail line near downtown a public nuisance in order to bring Norfolk Southern back to the table. The railway operator set a $7.1M price tag on the corridor this summer, which was well beyond the budget for the trail. Senator Woodard indicated that the Beltline was being held “hostage” by Norfolk Southern, to be traded for grade closures and improvements from the city along active rail corridors elsewhere in the city.
- The Governor’s Inn in RTP is being bought out by the Park, which plans to raze it and replace it with new construction.
- American Tobacco is getting an ice rink.
- Preservation Durham handed out some awards.