ENCINITAS — Several residents and business owners addressed the packed council chambers on May 16 to propose restrictions on alcohol service at downtown establishments.
Haven Dunn, a partner at Street Bar & Grill was in the minority when he asked the City Council not to enact a moratorium on establishments seeking to sell alcohol or to reduce the hours an existing establishment can have to serve alcohol.
As a representative of nine area bars and restaurants, Dunn reminded the council that such businesses generate substantial sales, thus adding to the tax revenue and act as “good neighbors, citizens and job providers.”
Dunn said the moratorium was a drastic step and contacting the alcohol serving establishments directly rather than asking the council to enact detrimental ordinances could effectively address concerns.
Laurie Baum, a resident who lives downtown spoke on behalf of the Encinitas Citizens Committee in support of a moratorium and other restrictions. The group is comprised of 200 residents and 60 businesses, according to Baum.
Baum said the atmosphere in her neighborhood has changed over the years. From trash, including cigarette butts, empty beer cans, underwear and condoms, strewn in her neighborhood to an increase in fights between drunken bar patrons, Baum said the difference is stark.
Most of the problems happen after midnight, as patrons are spilling out of nearby bars she said. “It seems we have reached saturation point, we are not asking that anyone leave, we just don’t want more,” Baum said.
When she asked who supported closing alcohol serving establishments at midnight and a moratorium, nearly the entire audience stood up.
Dunn said many of the businesses that would be impacted by changes to the current codes support forming a committee to work through the issues that have many neighbors up in arms. “We do not want Encinitas to turn into Pacific Beach, or any other deprived city,” Dunn said.
“We do want to work with you,” Baum said, looking at Dunn.
Brother Bhumananda of the Self-Realization Fellowship said the organization located at the south end of downtown is a sanctuary for prayer and meditation. He said the numerous alcohol serving establishments surrounding the center are not necessarily compatible with providing a quiet atmosphere.
He asked the council if a group could be formed to work on the issues so that people could still enjoy a peaceful retreat at the center while others could “party” at nearby bars.
Tom Billick, owner of Cardiff Classics, located on south Coast Highway 101 said he has noticed a significant change downtown. “It’s just amazing what’s happened in the past year and a half,” Billick said. The longtime resident said the noise level has increased dramatically. “I understand the positive and the negative but I’m really against these places being open (so late). I’m seeing an element in this town that I’ve never seen in 20 years.”
The council directed City Manager Gus Vina to meet with the Downtown Encinitas MainStreet Association and others to explore what could be done to resolve the complaints. Vina will make a public report of the informal group’s findings within 30 days.