Planning Commission Votes In Favor of Proposed Alcohol Ordinance

By: Ja'Mein Beale - Fri, 13 Apr 2012 14:13:10 -0800

WALNUT CREEK (BCN)--An ordinance that would tighten Walnut Creek city leaders' control  over bars and alcohol-serving restaurants was unanimously recommended for  approval by the city's planning commission Thursday, which voted to forward  the measure to the City Council.
Drafted after a number of violent incidents at downtown bars and  nightclubs over the past several months, the ordinance would allow the city  to impose a single set of nuisance-based standards on all establishments that  serve alcohol, according to city planners.
Any alcohol-serving businesses that opened in Walnut Creek after  2003 are required to operate under a conditional use permit, while more than  half of bars and restaurants serving alcohol citywide were grandfathered in,  allowing them to operate without adhering to the more stringent set of  standards.
The proposed ordinance would level the playing field for all  alcohol-serving businesses, according to city staff.
"We need to be able to hold ourselves to the standards Walnut  Creek expects - quality of life and safety standards," said Laura Simpson,  the city's principal planner. "This ordinance allows us to set those  thresholds locally and have them apply across the board."
Simpson stressed that only a small fraction of the city's bars and  alcohol-serving restaurants would be affected by the new ordinance, which  would allow the city to impose new regulations on businesses that repeatedly  violate anti-nuisance standards.
Those violations could include repeated incidents of violence,  vandalism or drug use in a business, Simpson said.
The planning commission's vote to recommend the ordinance to the  City Council followed months of vocal opposition from more than a dozen local  bar and restaurant owners who say the new law is unnecessary and could lower  their businesses' value.
About half a dozen of those business owners, all belonging to the  recently formed Walnut Creek Hospitality Group, spoke at the Thursday night  meeting.
"They're disheartened at the ruling," said Guy Louie, an attorney  representing the group of bar and restaurant owners. "They are being  regulated by (the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control), the fire  department and the health department, and here's another ordinance ... that  drives up costs and could potentially cost jobs."
The group of business owners have been meeting monthly with the  city's police chief to address security concerns around their establishments  and believe they have already found workable solutions to prevent those  problems, Louie said.
Another concern for the group is the risk of declining property  values when they decide to retire and sell their businesses, the attorney  said.
The hospitality group, which in February threatened a lawsuit  against the city if the ordinance passes, is still keeping "all our legal  remedies available to us", Louie said.
The City Council is expected to take up the issue at its May 1  meeting.
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