Law enforcement officials with the Santa Monica Police Department and the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control serve a search warrant at the Pico Neighborhood bar The Joker on Wednesday after undercover agents purchased narcotics from employees and patrons at the bar on several occassions. At least one employee was arrested and a bindle of cocaine was found on the premises, officers said. (photo by Brandon Wise)

PICO NEIGHBORHOOD — After two months of investigation, state and local law enforcement officers served several search warrants here Wednesday, with a focus on a dive bar where at least two employees and customers sold undercover agents cocaine on four separate occasions, authorities said.

Officers with the Santa Monica Police Department and the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), which issues liquor licenses, arrested at least one female bartender and recovered a bindle of cocaine in the bathroom of The Joker, which is located on Pico Boulevard near Yorkshire Avenue. 

Officers also arrested another person, recovered approximately two ounces of cocaine, scales, packaging material and $5,000 in cash at undisclosed locations, said SMPD Sgt. Dave Hunscke.

Theresa Ann Beatty, 39, of Culver City was taken into custody and booked for conspiracy, possession of narcotics and selling narcotics. Beatty worked as a bartender at The Joker. Officials would not release the name of the second suspect out of fear of jeopardizing the investigation.

More arrests are expected in the coming days, police said. 

The owner of The Joker was not taken into custody, however he could have his liquor license suspended or revoked, said Marcie Griffin, district administrator with ABC. Liquor licenses are heavily regulated, Griffin said, and some can go as high as $100,000 or more on the open market. 

The Joker had become a nuisance, officers said, with several neighbors complaining about unruly customers breaking beer bottles in the bar’s parking lot late at night. The Santa Monica Fire Department recently responded to a car fire at the bar and officers said several members of a local gang used the bar as a base of operations. 

“It has been a trouble spot for us,” said SMPD Lt. Doug Theus, a member of the SMPD’s SWAT team, which accompanied officers with ABC to serve the search warrants. 

Griffin and Theus said the investigation was a success because of the collaboration between the two agencies, with the SMPD providing much of the intelligence, while ABC provided undercover officers who were not familiar to the bar’s employees or patrons. 

No one could be reached at The Joker for comment. 

“We want the public to know that we are responding to their concerns and complaints,” SMPD’s Hunscke said. “Hopefully this will encourage others to make the call when they see something that is suspicious.”  

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