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Downtown bars under new security guidelines following fatal shootings
The Udder Place
Security updates have been made to the Conditional Use Permit for both The Udder Place and Grand Cru in downtown Turlock following shootings near both bars (Journal file photo).

For the first time since an off-duty security guard was shot to death outside the premises, Grand Cru will be welcoming guests back for weekend frivolity, but it will be doing so under new guidelines from the Turlock Police Department.

“Following the weekend shootings in Turlock, I completed an evaluation of the practices of Grand Cru and The Udder Place,” said Turlock Police Chief Jason Hedden. “Downtown Turlock is the envy of many Valley communities, drawing residents from throughout the region to enjoy our vibrant businesses, restaurants, and bars. The safety and security of our downtown corridor and our entire city is our number one priority. I have taken swift action to enhance safety and security measures and will continue to monitor progress as we move forward.”

Hedden said he conducted an evaluation of the safety and operational practices of the establishment, and as a result, has implemented administrative amendments to the Conditional Use Permit of the Grand Cru. Additionally, updates have been made for both The Udder Place and Grand Cru bars to increase the ratio of security to patrons to double the numbers previously approved in the C.U.P. process.

The requirements reduce the total occupancy at Grand Cru from 197 to 150 and increase the required number of security personnel from one per 100 patrons to one per 50 patrons. The establishments also have to submit a detailed security plan to the police department for approval.

“We must strike a balance between improving overall safety for our residents and visitors, while also maintaining the charm that draws people to the heart of our community,” Hedden said. “We will continue to work with our downtown business owners to support our local economy by maintaining a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.”

Jerry Powell, the owner of both Grand Cru and The Udder Place, said he was made aware of the amendments to the C.U.P. and has already put into place practices that have strengthened security efforts. In particular, Powell said the clubs have been using more security guards than required by the C.U.P. for at least the last five years.

“We have been exceeding that number at both places for years,” Powell said.

On a Friday or Saturday night the two establishments will have around 16 security guards working, Powell said.

Both bars already utilized security wand metal detectors and checked bags, as well as patted guests down if needed. Now, both businesses have new security systems that scan identification cards and takes a photo of each guest as they enter.

The bars already had several security cameras indoors and Powell said more have been added outside to cover more of the public areas, like the parking lot where the shooting occurred.

Powell also brought in a consultant to meet with the security guards and review all the protocols and safety measures.

Powell said he and his employees were appreciative of the increased patrols in the downtown area and the bar checks following the back to back homicides.

“Having a greater police presence benefits everyone downtown,” Powell said.

The changes to the C.U.P. stem from the back-to-back homicides on Jan. 14 and 15. In both cases the roots of the altercations started at downtown bars and spilled onto the streets at closing time.

The first case involved an exchange of gunfire between two groups around 2 a.m. Jan. 14, in the area of Market Street and South Broadway. The shooting resulted in the death of Romeo Portillo, 21, of Patterson.

Just after 1:30 a.m. on Jan. 15, Robert Morgan, 31, of Turlock was fatally shot in a parking lot area behind Grand Cru on Main Street. Morgan was a security guard at Grand Cru, but was there off-duty spending time with friends. A group had been ejected from Grand Cru for causing trouble, which continued outside the establishment.

Morgan was reportedly in a physical altercation with another man near the rear of The Udder Place, and during this time an unidentified occupant of a dark colored sedan stopped, got out, and fired multiple gunshots at Morgan before getting back into the vehicle and fleeing the scene.

“The businesses in Turlock are not responsible for the violence that is happening here and everywhere,” Powell said. “There’s only one person to blame for Robert’s death and that is the person who shot him.”

No suspects have been arrested in either homicide.

The Turlock Police Department asks that anyone with information about Portillo’s death to call Detective Gina Giovacchini at (209) 668-6539. Anyone with information about Morgan’s death is asked to call Detective Raul Garcia at (209) 664-7314. Tipsters can also contact the Turlock Police Department’s Tip Line at (209) 668-5550 extension 6780 or email at

The Turlock Police Department is an active participant in the Crime Stoppers Program. Callers can leave an anonymous tip by calling Crime Stoppers at (209) 521-4636 and may be eligible for a cash reward.