Hardy: Vesuvio tequila party 'disgusting' and
Published: February 8, 2013
A CARMEL resident who wants
the town to be quiet and a restaurateur who wants it to have a
bit more nightlife are battling over plans for a racy party in
the rooftop bar at a downtown restaurant.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, Carolyn Hardy asked the council
to protect her First Amendment right to free speech about what
she feels is best for the town, but city attorney Don Freeman
advised the mayor and council to stay out of a fight that could
end up in court.
The brouhaha began after Hardy sent an email to the mayor, council and city administrator Jason Stilwell Jan. 30 alerting them to a Feb. 7 event Rich Pepe planned for his Vesuvio restaurant at Mission and Sixth featuring Justin Timberlake’s 901 Tequila.
“Risking accusations of being prudish, I really find this
appalling for our village community. Is this the character we
want for Carmel in trying to bring vitality to downtown?” she
asked. “I don’t think so. I think you need to steer this ship
rather than allowing Rich Pepe to do it. He needs his chain
She was referring to Pepe’s collaboration with Racey Promotions
and 65 Degrees magazine to host the $50-per-person cocktail
party during the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Set to
run from 7:01 to 11:01 p.m., the party features custom cocktails
mixed by Pepe’s son, Christian, and a fashion show.
Hardy also provided a photo of “a full stable of women” from
Racey Promotions’ Facebook page. The company promotes events,
mostly motorsports related.
“You might mistake them for sluts and whores in their black thigh-high boots, little black dresses abundantly overflowing with chest and hiked up to their *bleep* which also reveal thigh tattoos,” she wrote. “Let’s see, the only thing missing so far from this Carmel event? The Johns.”
Hardy then called out the city for working with Pepe, who
unsuccessfully ran for mayor last April and is a member of the
mayor’s committee tasked with bringing more events, people and
money to downtown Carmel.
“Embrace and encourage the loser of the last election whom the
voters resoundingly rejected and give him as much platform as
possible to set him up for continual public attention and
another run for Mayor of Carmel. Forget that you are judged by
the company you keep. Encourage him to ‘work side by side’ with
the mayor at every opportunity, rather than keep him at arm’s
length. Since Pepe is notorious for perpetually pushing the
envelope, continue to give him a long leash,” she wrote.
Hardy also described Pepe’s Carmel-by-the-Glass wine event in
Devendorf Park last December that included live models and
helped raise money for the Carmel Mission Foundation as “the
lingerie fashion show in the park.” And she went on to condemn
the “babes with hooters atop his restaurant lounge to attract
the men that are here for the AT&T next week.”
She asked what’s next.
“How about some fine hookers cruising around the Devendorf Park
block? Hey, maybe Pepe’s onto something: Let’s co-sponsor a
‘hooker’s night out wine walk!’” Hardy wrote.
After Pepe obtained a copy of Hardy’s email, his attorney,
Jeannette Witten, wrote a letter to Hardy warning her the
contents were defamatory and libelous, and that she could be
“Although libel per se is actionable without proof of special
damages, your defamation has inflicted actual and demonstrable
damages to our client,” she wrote. Witten also said Racey
Promotions had been advised of Hardy’s characterization of its
employees as “sluts and whores.”
Witten demanded an apology from Hardy by Feb. 5, after which
she said Pepe would “pursue all available legal remedies,
including monetary damages, injunctive relief, and an order that
you pay court costs and attorney’s fees.”
In response, Hardy’s attorney, Michael Stamp, countered that
Witten provided no evidence of libel or defamation.
“You present no reason for Mrs. Hardy to voluntarily give up her First Amendment rights and her rights under California law,” he wrote. “Mrs. Hardy is not deterred by your threat.”
Stamp also stated that Pepe is a public figure who has
“voluntarily injected himself into controversy in Carmel and
Under federal and state law, it is much more difficult for a
public figure to win a libel suit than a person who keeps to
“You should keep in mind that opinions and ideas are not
statements of fact, and that there are no false ideas under the
First Amendment and California law,” he continued. “Parody and
pointed or colorful political speech are as protected as any
other type of speech.”
He characterized Pepe’s threatened litigation as a SLAPP case
— Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation — and
concluded, “Ms. Hardy was exercising her constitutional right of
free speech when she sent her comments to the city council.
There is little doubt that your threat is meritless.”
He requested Pepe withdraw the threat of litigation in writing.
At the Feb. 5 council meeting, during the public comment
period, Hardy told the council she wanted to “make public this
threat against me,” and said criticism, whether justified or
not, is protected speech.
“I urge you to disavow the threats against me, and to support
free speech and to protect the residential character of Carmel,”
But Freeman advised the mayor and council members to keep mum.
“I would caution the city council and staff against getting
involved in this,” he said. “It appears to be a civil matter.”