Newcomer Challenges Liccardo

An affable former security guard, bartender and doorman at the popular downtown bar Johnny V’s is eyeing a run for a seat on the San Jose City Council. Tim Hennessey has generated backing from a number of angry downtown club owners, and this December, with no political experience, he’ll start officially vying for a position representing the most high profile council district of the nation’s tenth largest city.

It’s an ambitious proposition. He’ll face a popular incumbent in the district that produced two recent mayors—Tom McEnery and Susan Hammer—and two mayoral candidates—Cindy Chavez and David Pandori.For now, he’s sitting at a table inside the Firehouse No. 1 Bar & Grill on San Pedro Square, sipping a John Daly—vodka, ice tea and lemonade—from a little red straw as he talks about his motivation for running for office.

“I think it’s time for fresh ideas and fresh changes. I think we need to secure our own destinies,” Hennessey says. “I think it’s time for the younger generation to get involved.

“We can’t wait until we’re 50 or 60-years-old and have served on water boards and school boards. We need to act now.”

Hennesey, who resides in Morgan Hill, is the son of Morgan Hill city council woman Marilyn Librers, but he is a political outsider. After graduating from Morgan Hill’s Live Oak High School in 1995, he served a little over three years in the Army National Guard before attending the Evergreen Valley College Police Academy. Unable to secure his dream job with the Morgan Hill Police Department after graduation, he worked security at Eastridge Mall and then Valley Medical Center. After having a heart attack during a foot chase on the job, Hennessey was medically retired at age 29. He then moved to downtown San Jose in 2004, looking for a little fun.

“There is only so much staying at home being retired at that age you can stand,” says Hennessy. “I didn’t know what to do with my life, and I had a lot of free time on my hands, so I ended up picking up the skill of bartending, and I worked the door as security at Johnny V’s.”

Over the years Hennessey gained a reputation as a regular on the downtown cocktail circuit, which, he says, turned him onto the plight of the struggling small business owners downtown.

“I have a very good rapport with the majority of the small business owners, entertainment, retail and dining, and that just comes from being a longtime patron of downtown San Jose,” he says. “For years now, I’ve heard all their gripes and grumbles.”

Hennessey says that in his view, downtown has been grossly mismanaged. After helping his mother with her political campaign in 2008, he decided it was his turn to run for office. He says someone with his background in law enforcement can help bridge the gap between government, police and the nightclubs downtown.

He brings up issues that have been percolating for years and which boiled over when the San Jose Police Department revoked Wet nightclub’s entertainment permit last month, effectively shuttering the club and igniting a lawsuit against the city.

“I feel that small business is under attack in downtown San Jose,” Hennessey says. “We all want the same thing: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. How we go about that is important. We can’t have people shanked on the dance floor. But I think that just pulling a nightclub’s entertainment permit, which is the business owner’s livelihood, especially in this economy—it’s difficult to justify removing somebody’s ability to make money and shut them down.

“I think there needs to be a different process. Of course public safety is an issue, and I’m an advocate of both, but I think we could all play a little bit nicer together.”

Bitter Backers

Hennessey may say he wants to play nice, but Ray Shafazand, owner of Sabor Tapas Bar & Lounge on San Pedro Square and one of Hennessey’s biggest supporters, says that he sees the upcoming election season as a chance to get down and dirty.

Sabor hosted Hennessy’s first “meet the candidate” event on Sept. 23, and coming Jan. 10, 2010, Shafazand plans on launching a hardcore opposition campaign against current District 3 Councilman Sam Liccardo.

“I’m going to start a negative campaign against Sam Liccardo, and it’ll be the biggest negative campaign that has ever come to downtown against one councilman,” Shafazand says. “I have all the clubs behind me. Between all the clubs we have 1.3 million e-mails, and we will be blasting that stuff twice a week against Sam Liccardo. We’re going to do e-mail and text blasts, we’re going to put posters around, you name it.”

Shafazand, who owned the restaurant and dance club Cuccini before it was rebranded as Sabor, has had permit problems that have led to litigation in the past with his landlord, Frank Cucuzza. Cucuzza has been part of San Pedro Square property projects with former San Jose Mayor Tom McEnery, and he has sought to evict Sabor.. Shafazand believes that McEnery and Cucuzza have influenced city officials to crack down on his club to further their development ambitions.Shafazand says that he thinks Liccardo has failed to support him and other downtown San Jose nightspots because he is taking instructions from McEnery.

“We need to put a people’s person on the council, not somebody who was handpicked by the old mayor, and the wealthy from downtown,” Shafazand says. “He’s betrayed his business owners downtown, and he’s going to get it.”

Liccardo says that Shafazand never even tried to contact him about problems at Sabor.

“I’ve never received a single phone call from Ray,” Liccardo says. “The last time I had a conversation with him was the opening day [of Sabor]. I showed up and said ‘here’s my name and my number.’”

Liccardo points out that Sabor, which is suing the city, has created “challenges” for the SJPD. “They have the second highest calls for [police] services for any club downtown,” he says.

Liccardo says he thinks the economy and conflicts over how nightspots should be run has a lot to do with why some nightclub owners are running a candidate against him.

“The fact that nightclub owners are unhappy doesn’t surprise me a bit because business has been bad,” Liccardo says.

Club Candidate
Since throwing his hat in for the ring, Hennessey has turned his personal Myspace profile into a campaign website titled “Tim Hennessey 2010.” There he posts his photo alongside the likenesses of George Washington, JFK and Rudy Giuliani. However, some of Hennessey’s bawdier personal photos, which depicted him partying, tongue out, with scantily clad women wrapped around his leg, had mysteriously disappeared from the site a few weeks after it was launched.

Shafazand says that he didn’t know Hennessey until a few months ago, when the 33-year-old walked through the front door and asked him how business was going.

“Unlike Sam Liccardo, who takes his own personal agenda ahead of the working people downtown, I think this guy has no connection to businesses,” Shafazand says. “He’s not an attorney, he didn’t attend Bellarmine, and he doesn’t have any ties. He’s a retired cop, so he can understand my position as a restaurateur.”

Liccardo says that he is in fact doing his best to hear from his constituents personally, including doing once monthly walks around downtown to hear what’s going on with business owners.

“In a tough economy like this, it’s often the case that you can be dancing like Baryshnikov and still be too late to save a failing business,” Liccardo says, “so you just do what you can.”

For his part, Hennessey has a lot of questions, but not as many answers. A Republican, he makes it clear that he supports porn filters in San Jose’s libraries, but “does not support a bag tax.”

Hennessey knows he needs to get a move on and find an apartment in downtown San Jose by the end of the year, so he can be eligible to run in District 3. He moved back to his hometown to take care of his father, who suffers from paralysis, he says. On personal level, Hennessey is dealing with the death of his stepbrother, Anthony William Librers, on Oct. 17 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound that occurred at a bachelor party at rural Central Valley campground

Hennessey says he also needs some money.

“Right now I’m borderline broke,” he says. “I’ve made some investments, some went well, some didn’t. As far as a positive flow of income, I have very little.”

Hennessey will be hosting his second “Meet the Candidate” event at Morocco’s Restaurant on Nov. 7. Shafazand says he will for sure be in attendance.

“We’re going to help this guy to the last breath that we have,” he says. “We need to make sure we get heard, that we get our needs done, and not for the millionaires downtown or the big landlords to get what they want.

“They play dirty. We’re going to play dirty. It’s going to be a big war, trust me.”

27 Comments

  1. I guess the hell with sober, law-abiding folks downtown.  Let’s elect this wannabe cop from Morgan Hill and transform our downtown back to one huge drunken brawl.
    GO SAM!

    • This guy is a jack ass using my little brothers death to advance his career. he didn’t even show up to the hospital to see him. The biggest book this guy ever read was hop on pop and you want him to be a city council member. He lives with his mother because he cant get a job. He was a wanna be skin head and probably the most racist person i know. He even offended my wife at the last family gathering we were at with a black joke.

    • Can you elaborate on that statement, or is your opinion based on this article? I am just interested in getting more information about it because I do not support this candidate nor think it is good for the city. There are obvious concerns with such a person in government. I just feel quoting the preamble in regards to nightclubs is a little absurd and elementary.

      • My apologies Kate, but do you mean my opinion of Liccardo, or Tim? I don’t know this Tim guy, but I certainly know a lot about Liccardo. I personally would’nt vote for either Hennessey or Liccardo! There are a lot of wonderful citizens that sit on City commissions that would do an incredible job for citizens. Problem is that they don’t have the money or name recognition to win. Sad but true~

  2. Tim Hennessy press conference

    TIM ANYONE FOR A FUZZY NAVEL?

    Reporter 1.  Sir, can you address how after school programs can continue with the budget cuts?

    TIM, NO, BUT MY MARGARITAS ARE THE BEST.  I USE SEA SALT FOR THE GLASSES!

    Reporter 2

    Sir, the rise in crime in the downtown area—-

    TIM, I AM PARTIAL TO LOOKING AT THE MIDDLE GROUND.  ANYONE WANT A TOM COLLINS??

    Reporter 3 Do you think traffic and mass transit planning needs can be met?

    TIM, WE CAN ONLY PLAN TO HOPE, AND HOPE TO PLAN, NOW FOR A RUM AND COKE, I DO THINK SPICED RUM CAN MAKE AN IMPRESSION!

    Reporter 4 Do you favor a greater commitment to affordable housing?

    TIM, OUR STAFF WILL ADDRESS THAT WITH A POSITION PAPER, (rubbing his hands)  A SINGLE MALT SCOTCH IS BETTER SERVED NEAT!

    Reporter 5, Are you being endorsed by anyone at this time?

    TIM, PAULA ABDUL, AND I AM GOING ON REGIS AND KELLY, BECAUSE I CAN MAKE LONG ISLAND ICED TEAS THAT WILL MAKE YOUR DAY!

  3. When I say that he has my vote already,.. what I mean is that as a downtown dweller for many I have seen certain threads, or strains if you will when it comes to our local politicians.
    There is a huge problem with cronyism… so the jab at Bellarmine to me wasn’t so much a jab, but more so the fact that if you go through the “pipeline” you are connected.. and the door is open…. outsiders are not welcome… it’s just the same if this guy was Mexican, he would have to go through the “Mexican pipeline”.. get on a local non profit, rub shoulders or marry into a local family like an Alvarado, then run for council… I hope that he is not “anti police”, but would actually work to find common ground between police force and nighttime business’… I believe you can have a vibrant nightlife and be safe at the same time.

  4. This is the best that the club owners can come up with? If it weren’t so sad it would be laughable. There is nothing wrong with challenging an incumbent but this guy sounds like a joke and will diminish what influence the club owners have (or had).
    With a “solid” record like this guy has no serious voter will even give him a second look.
    You want change? Put up a real candidate or work with the incumbent.
    This guy says it’s time for the younger generation to get involved. That’s fine but you don’t start at the council level. Get some real experience first—don’t start learning as a councilmember.
    Any club owner that supports this guy is clearly not interested in what is good for the city at-large but only in what is good for their own bank account. That narrow thinking is what is ruining this city.

  5. Hopefully Mr. Shafazand is better at running his negative campaign than he is at running Club Sabor. Club Sabor got some major crappy reviews at http://www.yelp.com which are ratings driven by actual consumers of a particular business. Mr. Shafazand also states that his candidate is a “retired cop”, which suggests Mr. Shafazand doesn’t know his candidate too terribly well. The article I read said he is actually a disabled security guard, therefore either Mr. Shafazand or San Jose Inside is telling a lie.

  6. I like this guy, Tim Hennessey.  It’s time for a little outsider input.  I volunteer to be a driver for him during the campaign to help him out.  I don’t drink or smoke so all should go well.  I’m serious.

  7. The last time I talked to Sam, he was telling us that his district was going to get BART.

    Turns out, there wasn’t enough money.  A few months after the election, we hear that BART will stop short.

    This was not news to Sam.  He is sharp enough to read the spreadsheets, and none of the spreadsheets worked out.  Sam knew the tax wouldn’t be enough to bring BART to downtown.  But he told us it would. 

    In my book, he lied.

  8. So all I’ve read here is that someone can side step important questions with a little razzle dazzle (some intoxicated people might support his issues in the moment, but what lasting impression is left after the fact). How can this canidate (who doesn’t even live in the area he’s running for) expect to be taken seriously campaigning himself in bars and any late night establishment. Granted the intent might be valid, but I can’t take someone seroius if the only exposure they recieve is at local bars and meet the canidate events held at night clubs.
    I plan to vote for the canidate that actually has expieriance in politics, not to mention one that knows the importance of self image.

  9. Saw our local 5 and 10 cent store version of Al Sharpton on the news last night.  Since Raj has a tremendous aversion to SJPD, maybe he should run for the Council seat.  Not that he would win, but it might take him off of the streets for a while.

  10. Club Wet? Sabor? You ever think of the reasons why those clubs are targeted? It’s because of the uncultured clientele. It’s funny how all these “clubs” and “ultralounges” act like they’ve got so much class when 98% of the people that go… don’t. Think about it, get more culture into San Jose and not meat markets. If you have people who are cultured I guarantee that the nightlife will thrive and we will ALL have something to do at night.

  11. Pro-business in downtown sounds good, but how does a man who parties with scantily clad women support porn filters?

    And why the jab at Bellarmine, one of the most progressive institutions around?

  12. Just because you helped out with your mother’s campaign in Morgan Hill doesn’t mean that you can jump into SJ politics, especially in D3. So you worked security at a mall and now you think you can work with SJPD, are you out of your mind? Please save what little money you have from your investments and go back to school, perhaps then you won’t be so bored and will refrain from conjuring up outlandish ideas such as running against Councilmember Liccardo.

  13. Before he automatically has or loses your vote, wait for Mr. Hennessey to speak on the rest of city issues.  He might have very well thought out positions, or he might have no clue.  Right now, there is no way to know.

  14. We have to give him (Tim) at least some credit for trying to make some noise.

    Tim – Please make sure to bring out some serious issues against Mr. Liccardo.

    Ask him why has he failed to stand behind small business?

    Ask him, what his accomplishments are?

    We hope you can rock the gravel that City Hall sits on a bit. 

    Good luck and we’ll see you in the race in 2010!

  15. I am concerned about a person that would use the death of their stepbrother to promote their career in the city council, it is not only shocking but very tactless. This is not the first time his death has been mentioned in relation to your running for city council Mr Hennessey, not even a day or so after the incident you were already giving misinformation to other reporters in an attemt to further your career. I ask you this Tim did you even go to the hospital to see your brother? You are shameless enough to hit on women at his funeral. You should be very ashamed of your behavior. To mention his name and then your need for money in this article is shameless and I’m sure your stepbrother would think you unscrupulous and disgusting for that.