Green Door Studio Vs. V’Canto: Round Two

by Freda Moon, February 25, 2010

Across Laurel Street.

Some fights start small and build into a rage that ends in bloodshed. Others begin with a man shouting, “Hey, fuck face!” at 8am on a Saturday morning in early November in downtown Fort Bragg. In this case, Fuck Face is Jim Muto, the owner of the Italian dinner house V’Canto; the shouter was Dan Hemann, the artiste behind Green Door Studio’s howling coyote. So, what brings a bronze sculptor to stand on a public street and scream obscenities at his neighbor, the mild-mannered restaurateur?

On this day, at least, the cause for conflict was eggs. The walls of Hemann’s studio had been pelted with them—and Hemann believed Muto was to blame. So, after his shouts were ignored, Hemann came through V’Canto’s door uninvited. Muto was in the restaurant’s dining room working on his laptop. His friend, Robert Van Peer, was there, too.

Here, it must be said that this entire account comes from Jim Muto himself. Though police reports were filed, they’re not yet publicly available. Dan Hemann declined to comment for this story, as did Van Peer, who said it would be inappropriate to do so since criminal charges may still be pursued in the case; if they are, Van Peer will likely be called to testify.

In this, Muto’s version of events, Hemann entered V’Canto angry, with his morning cup of coffee in hand. “Tell Jim to quit throwing eggs at my building,” Hemann said, addressing Van Peer. Muto told Hemann to leave. “We were closed,” explained Muto. “He had no right to be in [the restaurant].”

“Tell that asshole to stop throwing eggs,” Hemann said, again addressing Muto indirectly, through Van Peer—and again Muto demanded that Hemann leave.

“I went and pushed at him, just like this,” Muto said, demonstrating a slow, steady shove, “and pushed him out the door.”

Then, according to Muto, Hemann flung his coffee—and Muto lost it. “I went up – jumped up, because he’s tall – and just wrapped my arms around his neck.” Muto, a comparably small man, took the much larger Hemann to the floor. “At that point, the whole military thing came out of me: ‘Get on him, get the weapon away.’” Muto, a former Navy petty officer, says he saw the coffee cup as a weapon—a weapon he wanted out of Hemann’s hand.

From the periphery, Hemann’s girlfriend joined the fray—trying to break up the fight. A crowd assembled. The police were called. Muto said he doesn’t remember hitting Hemann, but that he may have. When the police arrived, each man filed a report against the other.

As Hemann was leaving, he gestured at his girlfriend and said to Muto, “If you got in a fight with her, she’d kick your ass.”

“And I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I’m 63 years old,” said Muto. “I’m embarrassed. I’m like a wet rag—covered in coffee and tea and getting in fights.”

Retelling the story this week, Muto still seems embarrassed at how a Saturday morning at his Fort Bragg restaurant devolved into his first physical fight since he was 13 years old. But those who have watched over the last three years as Hemann and Muto have stared each other down across Laurel Street are probably not surprised that this escalating feud would eventually lead to fisticuffs.

Dan Hemann & Debra Hock, outside Green Door Studio

Even before V’Canto opened its doors in 2007, Hemann had complaints about the new restaurant. Its paint job was not to his liking; neither were its proposed hours. The fact that V’Canto stays open an hour later than most Fort Bragg restaurants was a major issue. That live music is played on weekends further riled Hemann, who took his complaints to the city. When that failed, he challenged V’Canto’s liquor license with the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control department. Hemann lost there, too.

Months passed, but the hostility didn’t dissipate. Instead, it seemed to simmer. Hemann believed Muto was egging his building and his cars and putting glue in this locks. Muto laughs at the idea. This was, after all, the week after Halloween, when the petty vandalism of teenagers is a notorious holiday pastime. But Hemann remains convinced Muto is to blame.

Now, after months of radio silence, the District Attorney may take action. Muto recently received a letter informing him that, given his lack of a criminal history, the DA’s office was prepared to offer an “alternative” to filing criminal charges. The charges against Muto—assault and battery—would be dropped if he were to pay $150 to a Utah-based private contractor, Western Corrections, Inc., and submit to their “Values Improvement Course” via DVD. It’s a process the DA’s office calls mediation.

Muto, who is adamant about his innocence, rejected the DA’s offer and hired an attorney. “I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said.

Muto’s lawyer, Patrick Pekin, is confident and said he’s not interested in a settlement in the case. “I like the facts,” he said. “It looks to me like Dan crossed the street, walked into another man’s business, refused to leave and then threw coffee on the man. If it comes down to it, we’ll let the people of Fort Bragg decide what they think.”

It may come to that. With Western Corrections off the table, Tim Stoen, the prosecutor, says he’ll review the case and decide whether to pursue criminal charges. There’s no word yet on whether Hemann would submit to having his values improved—though without Muto’s participation, that option is no longer available to him.

Earlier this week, after interviewing Muto at V’Canto, I returned to my car to find a note on the windshield. It was unsigned, but read: “Be sure to ask Jim if he finds it appropriate adult behavior for him to throw eggs on our cars and building, and to put superglue in our door locks.” I had noticed Hemann, who frequently stands outside his studio, staring at me when I arrived. While inside, one of the patrons—overhearing my questions to Muto—said she’d seen Hemann circling the block. By her count, his truck passed by 13 times in about two hours. When I called Hemann for comment on the note, he denied having written it. “What makes you think I would do that,” he said before hanging up the phone.

19 Responses to Green Door Studio Vs. V’Canto: Round Two

  1. Will Reply

    February 24, 2010 at 9:22 am

    Man, I had a good chuckle at this. I’d recommend talking to Juan (or some of the kids out front) over at Headlands for a “different angle” on the story. This is like something out of a satirical TV show about small town living.

  2. Ohio Ted Reply

    February 24, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    The overwhelming evidencs is that Hemann is unhinged. Muto is a pushover, a sweet guy, and the surrorunding businesses should be thanking him. He gives them a reason to stay open later, if nothing else.

    • Sunny Reply

      February 24, 2010 at 11:36 pm

      Could it be that the emergency room records would remind Jim Muto as to the eight to twelve blows to Hemann’s left ear, and resulting to hearing loss Hemann suffered while being beaten on the public side walk OUTSIDE of Vcanto………………..
      Obviously Mrs Moon is servously biased.
      And Jim Muto is a desperate liar, and far from a sweet guy.

  3. Bub Reply

    February 24, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    Gossip, lies, what a chicken coop. Mrs Moon should get a job at the nearest Gas Station, No a Gas Station is too good for such lies. Or at least a life

  4. Everyone who has stood outside of headlands ever Reply

    February 24, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    Obviously this is a hotzone of controversy for our town. I’d like a vote of just the storeowners on Laurel street for whom they’d prefer to share commercial space with.
    In my opinion we’re faced with:
    A: a pretentious overbearing asshole who’s art directly benefits himself, who would invade another person’s business, refuse to leave, and who has throw niggling law after niggling law at someone instead of simply being a man and accepting it. Perhaps having a pasta.
    B: a laid back entrepreneur who’s overcome everything that dick has thrown at him, with multiple employees benefiting from the work, and encouraging cultural growth.
    Obviously, I am biased.
    I’ve met Mr. Hemann, and every time it’s very uncomfortable. I would very much like a jury to hear THIS case :D
    Or just punch him repeatedly.
    I think Dan’s hearing has gone long long ago. I’ve never known him to accept an opinion that wasn’t his own.
    Sunny: perhaps if someone attacks you inside your property, you’ll shut the hell up.

  5. Pamela Morey Reply

    February 25, 2010 at 1:01 am

    Freda Moon you’ve done it again- a “news” article completely biased and full of misstatements and false inuendos. I don’t believe the internet or anyone’s webpage should be used by people with “an axe to grind” to try and alter facts. What a disgrace to good investigative reporting. Here is the other side of the story that wasn’t covered in Freda Moon’s AVA “news” article:

    First of all- there was no “fight.” There was only an assault and battery by Jim Muto upon Dan Hemann on the public sidewalk- and not inside Muto’s VCanto Restaurant as Muto’s attorney suggests in this article. Dan Hemann merely suggested to Van Peer through VCanto’s open doorway- that Muto needed to stop the late night vandalism of Dan’s building. Muto hearing Dan say this to Van Peer in a sudden rage lunged at Hemann through VCanto’s open doorway into the public street and knocked Dan to the ground while Muto then continued to hit Dan Hemann multiple times in the head. Dan never fought back, but was only trying to save his new eyeglasses from being ruined in the fall from Muto’s sudden attack. Dan and his girlfriend, Debra Hock, were both holding coffee mugs as they were drinking coffee at the time on the public sidewalk and not planning on using the coffee mugs as a “weapon.” The coffee spilled on all parties in this sidewalk incident due to Muto’s sudden unexpected physical attack upon Dan. Muto says he doesn’t remember hitting Dan, but the police report and the hospital emergency room records show that Dan Hemann was hit in the head and ear multiple times by Muto causing hearing loss and scratches on Dan. Van Peer took photgraphs of Muto hitting Dan, but offered no assistance to stop Muto. Therefore, Debra Hock – who dropped her favorite coffee cup doing this- helped to pull the flailing Muto off of Dan while Dan tried to save his new eyeglasses. The Fort Bragg police later returned to Debra Hock her coffee spoon.

    It appears that it is Muto that is a bit “unhinged” and that he should be embarrassed for his behavior. To tell news “stories” about Dan Hemann and Debra Hock doesn’t alter the fact that the dispute between Dan and Muto started years ago over VCanto’s violation of city ordinances in playing amplified music outside of the normal Central Business District Hours of Operation which are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Business hours that may interfere with the quiet enjoyment of residences in this mixed use downtown area must obtain a Use Permit and follow the rules of the City Use Permit. Muto had his liquor license temporarily suspended by the Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control because the Fort Bragg Police Dept. reported to ABC that Muto had been violating the special provisions of his liquor license by playing amplified music outside his approved hours of operation which was in violation of the Fort Bragg City Noise Ordinance and V Canto’s ABC license and City Use Permit. It appears that Muto, then in anger for this temporary loss of ABC licensing- took out his rage upon Dan Hemann and Dan’s building instead of admitting that he needs to follow the rules of his business permits or risk losing the right to operate a restaurant serving alcoholic beverages downtown.

    There are no charges by the Police Dept. or D.A. against Dan Hemann. He was offered the same mediation as Jim Muto for this incident as he also has no prior criminal record of any kind. It appears that the Police Dept. isn’t interested in prosecuting either party to this incident and that Muto and Freda Moon of the AVA are making up a “story” to help Muto save face for his unruly behavior.

    My advice to Muto is to please stop the war. You got the business hours that you wanted already through “bending the rules” with the City of Fort Bragg and ABC who have bent over backwards to help you succeed with the restaurant. If your business still has problems they are not Dan Hemann’s fault. Maybe its the bad economy and/or your inability to follow the rules of your permits. Your business needs something positive to draw more customers. All of this dreadful gossip and hate towards your neighbor will not bring you any good luck.

    Amplified music is not allowed in the mixed use Central Business District according to the F.B. City Noise Ordinance and any restaurant music should not be heard by downtown residents outside of the restaurant premises especially after 10:00 p.m. in the mixed use CBD which is zoned both residential and commercial. If VCanto wants more noise making- then they need to re-locate outside of the mixed use Central Business District. Slander or attacks upon your residential neighbors will not deliver to you the right to make late night noise.

    • Freda Moon Reply

      March 2, 2010 at 12:42 pm

      There’s a difference between bias, which is defined by prejudice, and an opinion based in reporting. I don’t know either Hemann or Muto personally, so I can say unequivocally that I hold no grudge and have no ax to grind. But in reporting on the Green Door-V’Canto dispute, I have spoken to both men and have come away from those interviews with a vivid impression of each man and his respective role in the community.

      In my story, I went out of my way to say that I could not know what happened on the day that Hemann and Muto crossed swords. As is often the case, the only people who can are those who were actually there. What I could do was attempt to get each man’s perspective and let readers make up their own minds about who they believe.

      I’d hoped Hemann would share his version of events directly. Instead, we learn his account through you, in a kind of modern media version of the children’s game Telephone. Since you seem to be his spokesperson, I’d hoped to ask you a few questions. But when I dialed a phone number listed online for Pamela Morey, certified iris analyst, I reached Dan Hemann at his Green Door Studio instead.

      I’d still like to hear Hemann’s account in his own words. But your recitation was evocative—and goes a long way toward filling in the details from a Hemannian perspective. I especially liked the part about the spoon.

  6. Anon. Reply

    February 25, 2010 at 2:29 am

    That guy is a crazy asshole. Hates music, children, and wine. I’m pretty sure those hats he wears are breathing apparatuses, and without them he would not survive our terrain atmosphere. -Native.

  7. Tom Reply

    February 25, 2010 at 9:53 am

    The Green Door dude needs to realize that he’s in a commercial block with two restaurants and numerous shops across the street and several others within a one block radius. Thus it is entirely unrealistic for him to expect the quietude of a residential neighborhood in the evening hours. He chose to live there, having moved to the “nuisance” and needs to relocate his living arrangements, if not his shop, to a different area if he doesn’t like it; that’s all there is to it. That block of Laurel and the surrounding area is an evening commercial venue and is not going to change based on the unareasonable complaints of an irasible individual. Consistent with zoning regs, V’Canto, the Headlands and the other downtown restaurants and clubs and their clientele are there to stay.

  8. Owen H Reply

    February 25, 2010 at 11:23 am

    All of the controversy and acrimony aside, it is the responsibility of BOTH parties to get along. These are adults, not children on a school playground. Physical violence on the part of EITHER party is not an appropriate response. Bullying and harassment is equally inappropriate. Personally, I don’t think that it matters “Who started it.” At this point, both of these adult neighbors MUST learn to get along, even if this means swallowing a bit of their own pride. Can’t the two of them at least learn to ignore each other?

  9. Margaret Paul Reply

    February 25, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Mr. Muto is pretending to be something he isn’t…namely, mild manered. In reality, his behavior appears more like that of a potentially violent man. It’s hard to believe his claim that his last fight was at age 13.
    I’ve known Dan for more than a decade and have never seen him lose it. Sure, he’s been upset by the down and dirty tactics of the V’canto people, but violent physical attacks are not in his repertoire. All Dan has ever done is try to protect his property rights; never initiating anything. Dan does not deserve this ugly publicity.

  10. Debby Brady Hock Reply

    February 25, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    From the day Jim Muto and the gang from Vcanto came to Laurel Street it has been the little big man bullying from the 9/11 refugees from New York City. We tried to talk in the beginning like long time residents of the north coast do, in a friendly way. It has been there way or the highway attitude from day one with this group of people. The lies that have been told is an outrage.
    Dan and my love for music, “Neil Young brings us both such joy” our art is inspired in part by music. We just don’t keep people up all night with it.

    To see such hatred from Jim Muto for the past three years. Daniel Hemann has been and is the most loving partner to me and my very special children.
    The 15 years that I bar tended in Fairbanks Alaska during the pipeline I have never seen such ugly bullying, and I thought I had seen the worst in people. We tried to get a restraining order from the Fort Bragg Kangaroo court, we were declined based on a lack of evidence. even though we had submitted approximately 150 pages of facts of attempted staged accidents, Vcanto patrons attempting to fight with us, vandalism, the owners screaming at Dan to come out and fight. You name it, they have done it !
    They managed to manipulate the hours they wanted, for Jim Muto this just isn’t enough, he wants more and more, he posts in his window every dilemma that comes down his poor little pike. He is banking on gossip and slander.

    We know we live down town, we expect noise, but people do live here too, at the same time, there are reasons why late night uses are restricted in a mixed use district. Not only the City Use Permit, but also Alcoholic Beverage Control restrict these uses.Not only are there twelve residential uses within 100 feet, In this case the Vcanto building has four dwellings upstairs. If our count is correct, as many as 16 tenants have moved out in the past three years. Understand, this a beautifully renovated victorian building with very reasonable rents.
    Could it be we have too much noise???????
    If you have seen the attempted blue fabric sound proofing hanging from the Vcanto ceiling you may agree that maybe Mr. Muto is aware of the problem.

    Please Mr, Muto, continue with your reasonable entertainment that you have featured in the last few weeks without amplification. Stay within the current guidelines of your ABC and Use Permit, and there shouldn’t be a problem. In the past we have been told by many that its just too loud to dine there.

    I can’t say how upsetting this is to me knowing Dan never set foot into your building on the day in question. And even more upsetting that Robert Van Peer stood in your door way taking pictures with his awful cel phone instead of helping me lift you off of Dan while you continued pounding his face and left ear with your fist. Dan’s coffee cup fell to the ground when you came running out of your building ramming and kicking him to the ground, before you started swinging at him. The coffee cup was never used as a weapon.
    In the three years that this has been going on we have never before come to your side of the street……….. It has always been your people and patrons who have come here to harass us. Is it enough controversy yet, or do you just live for it ?????

  11. John Ploof Reply

    February 27, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Debbie I have not see you in over 31 years

    your looking good

  12. Laurel Streeter Reply

    March 2, 2010 at 6:53 am

    As a long-time business owner on Laurel Street, I can attest to the fact that Dan Hermann is a jerk. It’s not just Jim Muto who has been his victim. Everyone on Laurel Street who doesn’t agree with Dan has fallen victim to his wrath. He stands outside his shop on busy tourist days telling anyone who will listen not to patronize the businesses he doesn’t like. He leaves threatening notes on our cars. He accuses us of making too much noise, squealing our tires, promoting juvenile delinquency, and conspiring to ruin his business. He calls the police or runs to City Hall to report every perceived infraction by other business owners. This has resulted in the police telling him he can’t put a chair on the sidewalk in front of his shop. He’s currently accusing the City of posting bad review about him on yelp.com. You know it’s going to be a fun day in town when you see Dan and Debbie running around with a stack of papers!

    Quite frankly, the whole town would be better off if he would just leave. No one on Laurel street likes him. Even his former allies have bailed on him. Every case he’s brought to court or to the ABC he’s lost. The reason he loses is because he’s a miserable old crackpot whose paranoid ranting has no truth behind it. He just likes to try and make everyone else as miserable as he is. Sad, really.

  13. Harris Fletcher Reply

    March 2, 2010 at 8:31 am

    Well done Freda!
    She says clearly that this story is from Jim’s
    perspective, however Jim is not the one who has refused to comment on the events. He isn’t hiding behind a ‘green door’ leaving anonymous notes. What is ‘green door’ supposed to mean anyway?

    So what if Jim popped his ornery neighbor in the head a couple times? Quit wining you babies.
    He probably deserved it if he provoked one of the nicest men in the world to lay hands on him.

    I spoke to this green door fellow some years ago and i’m pretty sure he mentioned having suffered acute lead poisoning? Somehow relating to his always wearing sandals. That may explain his behavoir in part, and maybe his refusal to provide his account of the events to the community. Maybe these ‘northcoast residents’ should go back to Carmel and enjoy some peace and quiet under its own brand FACISM!

    Who is cares more about this town? Does ‘green
    door’ offer surf movie night or have an open ACOUSTIC music corner where bards can sing for their supper? Perhaps ‘green’ is the cash they want coming the ‘door’. Does anyone buy anything there? Its a better name for a money laundering service. And what the fuck are they complaining about noise? They live half a block from highway one.

    The ‘green door’ doesn’t fit in this town. Best they go look out for their own interests in some other town they don’t want to be a part of.

    9-11 refugees? Come on.
    We’ll see who’s going to be pumping gas.

  14. Debby Brady Reply

    March 2, 2010 at 8:57 am

    You know I did Graduate from Mendocino High School 1977!
    This is my Home
    And I am and never be a grower!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. Green Door Studio Reply

    March 2, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    I think that “the Laurel Streeter” is a good handle in this case. Thats funny Juan, imagine our surprise to see your anonymous insertion on this. The man who has broken his agreement with ABC on a nighty basis for the past thirteen years. Your agreement ( license) does state that your music is not to be audible from outside your building now doesn’t it !!

    As far as you burning rubber with your truck after midnight on Laurel Street, I don’t know son, This is kind of a childish temper thing of yours. Maybe it is you who is a little shop worn. You and your neighbor are quite perfect for one another with your late night activities.

    It is for sure some people are much more subject to misinformation than are others. It is true that all of this has cleared the air for us around here. We know who our friends are. Contrary to your suggestion, even with the continuing slander machine running, more then 50% see right through it all.

    By the way mud slinger, how did you access that CONFIDENTIAL information between the Green Door Studio and the City of Fort Bragg regarding Yelp?
    Good Old Boys Forever!

  16. norcalm Reply

    March 29, 2010 at 12:39 am

    “for what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?”

    ~Jane Austen.

    for what it’s worth, this is great reading. and people ask what we do for entertainment here in mendoland…

  17. patrick nackerman Reply

    January 17, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Ive known Jim Muto for 30 years and there is no way he would ever throw an egg at someones business.Jim has done so much for that community without ever him mentioning a single time of his selflessness actions. He knows what it takes to run a business and he would never even think about doing something so childish.It was obvious that this was a devils night prank and this gentlemen took it personal and blamed someone. He is leaving notes on cars? Coming into a business that is closed? He has some issues I would think.Fort Bragg is blessed to have a Jim Muto in there downtown and I only hope that this gentleman across the street could could get to know Jim and realize how childish he has been acting

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