Cops try to dry Pacific Beach | Denial of new liquor licenses aimed at area’s high rate of alcohol-related crimeSeptember 27, 2003 No Comments
Angela Lau. The San Diego Union – Tribune. San Diego, Calif.: Sep 27, 2003. pg. B.1.1.7
Liquor licenses that once flowed freely in Pacific Beach have dried up, and new restaurant owners say the prohibition is hurting their business.
While many residents applaud the denial of new liquor licenses, restaurant owners say the practice is unfair. Some say they may go out of business because they are losing patrons who want beer or wine with their meals.
The suspension of new alcohol licenses began 5 1/2 years ago when San Diego police, concerned about Pacific Beach’s high rate of alcohol-related crime, began protesting all applications for new licenses in that area, vice Lt. Robert Kanaski said.
This year alone, police have protested five licenses in Pacific Beach.
“The police carry a lot of weight with us,” said Steven Ernst, district administrator of the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. “We work extremely closely with the vice unit.”
Once again, alcohol, blamed for disproportionately high crime rates in Pacific Beach, is at the forefront of the community’s conscience.
The debate boils down to this: Will withholding new licenses eliminate drunken rowdiness?
Cantina Panaderia’s co-owner, Billy Tosheff, says it won’t. He has been trying to obtain a beer-and-wine license since his restaurant opened a year ago.
The restaurant, which serves Asian-Latin cuisine, is in the heart of Pacific Beach’s tourist district and is acknowledged by many in the community and by police as a well-managed eatery.
“If you want the nature of Pacific Beach to change, reward and encourage . . . family-style businesses that appeal to more people than those who are seeking cheap alcohol,” said Tosheff, who lives in Pacific Beach.
Chuck Allen, another Pacific Beach resident, agrees. “The problem in Pacific Beach is we have way too many bars and not enough restaurants that serve alcohol in moderation,” he said at a recent Pacific Beach Town Council meeting devoted to collecting opinions on liquor licenses.
Ernst concurs. “If Pacific Beach redevelops and brings in high- quality restaurants, high-quality hotels, they’re going to change the demographics,” he said. “The partygoers are going to find someplace else to go.”
However, some Pacific Beach residents say state regulators should not add to the oversaturation of alcohol-serving establishments in their community.
“To give a new license is absurd,” Eliza Tolley said. “If an establishment wants a license, take one away from a bar that abuses it.”
Police Department statistics show that Pacific Beach accounted for 28.4 percent of the 19,088 alcohol-related arrests in San Diego in 2002, although its residents make up only 3.2 percent of the city’s population. Alcohol-related arrests involved drunken driving, public drunkenness and minors in possession of alcohol.
At the same time, Pacific Beach has far more alcohol licenses than state laws allow. That was the result of policies in past years when police and residents did not complain and applicants were able to show they were meeting the need for public convenience or necessity.
The number of available licenses is determined by population. State regulators approved liquor permits despite an excessive concentration of the licenses because no one foresaw the problems that such a practice would bring, officials said.
For instance, the heart of the community’s tourist district — Garnet and Grand avenues and Mission Boulevard — has 69 liquor licenses for restaurants, bars and liquor stores where there should only be 10, Kanaski said.
Pacific Beach and Mission Beach are supposed to be allowed 61 licenses, Kanaski said. But the two communities have 129.
Pacific Beach, with a population of 41,068, is served by 48 markets, 92 restaurants and 22 bars that offer alcohol, Ernst said.
Recognizing the ill effects of past policies and faced with limited police power in lean budget years, police changed their tactics, Kanaski said.
“For about the last 5 1/2 years, we have protested all new licenses,” Kanaski said. “Even if it’s restaurants, it’s like adding a drop to the bucket that’s already full.
“(When) people come to dinner, they drink at the restaurant before they hit the clubs or the beach. We become stuck in the middle. What I look at is whether I have the law enforcement capability to properly patrol the area. I don’t have that in Pacific Beach.”
Kanaski acknowledges the hardship this new swing in the alcohol- license pendulum could bring to restaurants such as Cantina Panaderia.
“It’s a hard one — one that I get very little sleep at night because of that,” he said. “If I were in the business world and I saw law enforcement trying to prevent me from doing my business, I’d feel the same way those folks feel.”
The Town Council will discuss the issue again at 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at Pacific Beach Middle School.
Angela Lau: (619) 542-4584; email@example.com
1 PIC; Caption: Cantina Panaderia co-owners Billy Tosheff and his wife, Marla Reif, stood next to rows of glasses at their restaurant in Pacific Beach. They have been trying to obtain a beer-and-wine license since opening the restaurant a year ago. (B-1:1,7; B- 2:2,6); Credit: Earnie Grafton / Union-Tribune
Credit: STAFF WRITERAlcoholic Bev Ctl (ABC), Bars and Restaurants