La Jolla ramping up with enormous Bar/Restaurant/Nightclub – Mike’sAugust 12, 2010 2 Comments
The following is a handout presented to the La Jolla Town Council as part of my personal public comment:
Alcohol Licenses and a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) / Deemed Approved Ordinance (DAO)
The dread we experience in Pacific Beach several evenings a week and most weekends throughout the year appears to be building over La Jolla. As a 20-year resident of Pacific Beach, bar-country to the south, I’ve seen what an un-checked alcohol industry will do to a community. Our fear is that La Jolla is going to experience similar issues—many not positive and difficult to eradicate once a foothold is made.
We have been struggling in Pacific Beach to slow down the fanatical growth of our 125 bars, nightclubs as well as many of our ‘restaurants’ morphing into bars or nightclubs. What once was a Pizzeria Uno’s is now a full-fledged sports bar. What once was a comedy house is significantly sized location with multiple bars and large outdoor patios oftentimes with outdoor DJ’s. A ‘restaurant’ by name acts and conducts its business as a bar—with little controls. Our community believes we’re inviting in a restaurant and voila we’ve got another bar. In PB many of our restaurants serve food, usually ceasing service at 10 pm and alcohol sales taking first priority thereafter. Our bars are also expanding their size regularly—effectively doubling their capacity without any community input or ability to rein in this growth.
As a community, we have little say in how many licensees the San Diego Police, Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) or, administrative judges hired by the ABC allow to open shop. The police try to intervene but, the ABC often permits new licensees in a completely saturated area or, a modification or transfer to an existing license without much credence given to the local residents concerns. Further, we have little say in what could be tailored special conditions that allow us to blend such businesses into our established business/residential areas. There is a viable solution however—introduced below.
One example of a potential issue? The new Mike’s on Girard Ave.
Mark my words, what you may think is a bar (actually 7 bars), restaurant (actually 3) and nightclub that now claims it will close at 10:30 p.m. will soon change into a full-blown bar closing at 2 am. It takes little effort to get this modification approved once the business is operational and their foot in the door. [Update: this was an early news report in a San Diego publication however, my understanding is that these bars will now remain open until 2 am]
Importantly, this commentary is not about Mike’s or Mr. Viscuso the proprietor, who is investing sizeable capital into this space. It’s about the proliferation of bars and nightclubs in our communities, the consequences, the lack of enforcement and what proactive steps our communities can take to minimize potential problems. My goal is to help other communities prevent hugely negative experiences as we have to go through on a weekly basis in Pacific Beach.
But isn’t Mike’s going to revitalize the village?
Yes and no. Sure, there will be tons of people coming to the new Mike’s. However, this is a double-edge sword. Sooner than later if you allow un-checked alcohol-related business growth in La Jolla—especially in the village—you will find little remedy to change course. The scope of Mike’s will undoubtedly attract more proprietors and, at worst, what was once a village will now become a year-round campus party.
What kinds of issues will you potentially experience?
There will be people taking up any available parking space for a large swath of the area. When such large sized businesses are open during daylight their clientele compete with people coming to shop in boutiques or eat at finer restaurants. These patrons tend to fill up local residential areas as well.
There will be many people pre-drinking before they get to the bar (as the drinks will cost a pretty penny no doubt) and their beer bottles, single-serve liquor bottles, full pint and fifth bottles and tons of beverage and food containers will litter the streets. Cigarette butts? Flyers on cars? They’re all coming.
Pub Crawls and Public Intoxication
Many students and other groups form pub crawls. They typically dress up following a theme and go from bar to bar playing drinking games or, just getting tanked. On the weekend, they have little regard for other visitors and are usually noisier and more obnoxious as the day progresses. Many tout charities as beneficiaries of their event as if that absolves them or their hosts from their responsibilities. Since there aren’t many public restrooms available patrons will relieve themselves wherever or whenever they please, regardless of gender. Those drinking too much will lose their cookies in a myriad of places – including smack dab in the middle of your sidewalks. Not fun on a Sunday morning stroll.
There will be lots of vandalism. People visiting the bars will be heading to and from their cars and will want to memorialize their La Jolla visits by marking anything and everything. One such PB tagger created 19 tags on the way from a bar to his vehicle. Glass cutters and knives will be used to etch windows with monikers. Small shops may decide to install expensive vandal-prevention film on their windows. Some patrons will decide to fight on the street at closing time. More serious assaults will take place as well. Many drawing our thinned staff of police enforcement from other communities—and vice versa.
How will all these people get home? Since many visitors to your bars don’t live in walking or biking distance such as here in PB you’re going to be experiencing potentially even higher levels of drunk drivers than we do and hopefully similar levels of drunk driver arrests—that is, if your visitors drink at the levels ours do. We see many people not wanting to pay $20-50 for a taxi to get home who then decide to drive home themselves. 70% of drunk drivers caught in PB live outside of PB. Your drunk drivers will affect us, as ours do you, since we are the primary access or egress point to the south.
Party Buses, Taxis and Alternative Transportation?
Many drinkers will use of cabs and many will elect to use party buses—a more and more popular option. Every imaginable type of party bus, from converted (retired) school buses to vans, greyhound-sized charter buses complete with loud music, stripper poles and disco balls will be a regular sight in and around your business district. Partiers will be taken to and from downtown, PB and La Jolla. This doesn’t mean people won’t drive home drunk however as we’ve seen partiers dropped off party buses here in PB while the riders walk right over to their cars and drive away.
Ambulances and Fire-Rescue
Many people too drunk to take care of themselves, those with alcohol-poisoning symptoms as well as physical assault or, hit-and-run and other vehicle-related victims will require ambulances—drawing resources from La Jolla or its neighboring communities. This is even more concerning when serious non-alcohol related health issues arise in the beach, business and residential neighborhoods—especially with our current brownout conditions—potentially delaying response times.
Nightclubs leaving patio doors open in the evenings? Anyone trying to enjoy an art show or movie in the summertime at the Athenaeum, a stroll down Prospect or Girard to window shop or, for a nice quiet walk will have a completely different experience with a thump-thump-thump, boing-boing-boing as background noise. Unchecked, sounds will travel throughout the residential neighborhoods and perhaps even reach people picnicking or strolling down at the Cove.
Restaurants morphing into bars?
What you might think is a little existing pizzeria with a license could put their tables and chairs away and convert into a full-blown bar after 10 pm. Seven nights a week. Profits are very enticing and we have experienced many such ‘restaurants’ doing just this with little or no regard to our community.
Not to worry you say, the ABC has it under control?
The Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) will keep a close eye on this and other new operators right? Not so fast. The ABC has many rule-nuances that will baffle most people—few seeming to protect communities and lately trending towards supporting operators. Our state legislature has literally gutted our local office’s budget for enforcement activities leaving 3-4 enforcement officers (when in 1996 we had 16 with fewer licensees) to monitor about 850 licensees each. Now, each investigator has about 2 hours a year for monitoring, inspecting, citing, securing punishments, travel and phone time etc. for each licensee in their territory. We see little if any enforcement results yet, we have enormously high crime rates, drunk driver arrests hovering around 600 annually and excessive public drunkenness issues.
The core PB census tract (79.01) is slated for 10 alcohol licensees. We have over 60. That’s about one for every 85 residents in this tract. The ABC isn’t supposed to allow more licenses if a census tract’s alcohol-related arrests are over 120% the citywide average. The core tract in PB is 1900% the citywide average, yet we just had yet another brand new license approved last month and have 14 new or license modification-applications in process. Know how many we’ll be able to prevent? Doubtfully we may prevent one or two—if we’re lucky. It’s been tried here in PB over and over while, for 20 years many efforts were in vain. Is this snowball starting down the hill in La Jolla?
Who cleans it all up?
Expecting the bars to help pay for the cleanup or actually do it themselves? We have a hard time getting many of our bars or restaurants to care less. Expecting your business improvement district to jump in? If they’re stretched thin now it’s going to only add additional burden on them. How will they pay for the new cleanup demands? Perhaps they’ll try to impose a Maintenance Assessment District (MAD) on your residential and business district as they tried with us–or, perhaps they’ll impose parking meters, the pretend-panacea for all of a community’s woes. More likely, it will take community volunteers to do the work potentially leaving the La Jolla Town Council monthly cleanup as the primary vehicle.
How will the other businesses react?
Non-alcohol related businesses won’t be happy with the amounts of crime, vandalism, graffiti, defacement, litter and bodily fluids they’ll find in the mornings. Also, people drinking in our bars do not shop in our boutiques. They’re out drinking and care little about our many other clothing, surf and health-related businesses. We’ve also attracted abnormal numbers of tattoo parlors, head shops and marijuana dispensaries. These businesses sprout where their client-demographic visit. Non-alcohol business will look to community leaders wondering how preventing these conditions got past them.
One solution and our immediate end-goal?
We’re working towards securing a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) system such as communities like Ventura have enacted. We have one for off-sale (liquor stores) but, not one for on-sale (bars/restaurants)—unless they have an entertainment permit. The CUP we’re promoting consists of an ABC-trained San Diego Police officer who stays in the position for several years. All liquor licensees pay into a fund which compensates this officer and fuels the program. ‘At risk’ licensees pay more as they demand additional attention. This officer works with the community and licensee to establish ground rules from a wide variety of options. Graffiti removal, litter cleanup, post-event security, security cameras, noise abatement, over-serving enforcement… etc. is all covered. If violations are made the officer doles out immediate consequences. This officer works with the licensees but, also protects the community’s interests. Many good proprietors have no issues with such a system. Problem ones may.
Not too keen on the above scenarios?
There is little chance of avoiding them if you don’t take proactive action now. I urge you to explore having your La Jolla Community Planning Association review alcohol licensees from a land-use perspective such as we have begun doing, start having your Town Council review and make their own recommendations to the city and stand up as citizens as to whether or not you support licensees and ultimately what conditions you will expect.
Unfortunately, be prepared to experience a lot of frustration as the city is largely powerless in stopping ABC-paid administrative judges from issuing more and more licensees getting into La Jolla—often using ‘public convenience and necessity’ as their excuse. We’ve got tons of examples. We wish the powers that be didn’t dump these alcohol licensees on our community. However, that’s water under the bridge. Helping stop this potential nightmare in other communities is important as we wouldn’t wish this nightmare on any of our neighbors throughout the city.
If you’re concerned please get involved and learn all we have been through so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Many of our experiences are documented on this website: pbSpirits.com. Please feel free to visit and learn more about our situation, the consequences of inaction and what can be done to stem this tide.
In June 2010 our Planning Group held a community forum to discuss these issues and the solutions other communities have experienced. You are invited to see this presentation in its entirety, including all handouts and slideshows, on pbSpirits.com—accessed by clicking the blinking link in the right column or, here.
Keeping it Positive
I sincerely apologize for the doom and gloom message. However, I hope you take this message in context and see my intentions as being a friend of La Jolla and one that is very concerned that similar conditions such as the ones existing in Pacific Beach do not take hold.
There are several activists in PB who are working together, and hopefully someday with our alcohol-licensees, to enact a CUP in our neighborhoods. Perhaps you’re interested in joining our efforts? Communities all over California are experiencing similar situations and the futility in changing course because of their not acting soon enough. Unique as La Jolla is—it’s not immune from the alcohol-related tragedies that are most assuredly heading your way. There are enormous profits to be made in alcohol sales and that motivation alone will permanently alter the community fabric without your intervention. You can keep this in check but, it will take immediate interest and involvement by concerned parties from perhaps your planning, town council and active residents who care about the future of La Jolla.
If you’re interested in learning more perhaps we can arrange an evening event here in La Jolla where we can make a more formal presentation of our findings? Please contact me at pbSpirits@gmail.com and if there’s interest we’ll plan such an event at the earliest opportunity, ideally soon engaging our Councilmembers, Police and other city officials as well.
Thank-you very much.
Photo Credit: SanDiegoHouseMusic.comAlcohol Licensees, Commentary, La Jolla