ENCINITAS — The most recent disagreement over bars and community character played out at an Aug. 15 Planning Commission meeting.
Ultimately, the Bier Garden won the right to keep its windows open until 10 p.m. as a result of a 3-1 Planning Commission vote.
Bier Garden’s rear windows, which face its outdoor patio, are currently shuttered throughout the day. The operators applied for permits to open them to improve circulation and the ambiance of the spot, they say.
David Crevisten, one of the owners, said he didn’t anticipate opposition to the permits since Bier Garden is known for a casual atmosphere and shuts off its lights at midnight.
“I never imagined (residents) who live next to a train, the 101, Whole Foods and businesses that close at 2 a.m. with live entertainment, would ever take issue with a business that closes at midnight,” Crevisten said.
But half a dozen residents who live at Pacific Station, where Bier Garden opened this spring, said the location is already loud. Unfastening windows near their apartments will only make it worse, they maintain.
Resident Patty Weber noted she was excited for Bier Garden to set up shop in the space, but that quickly changed once it opened.
“We were shocked by the noise level,” Weber said. “We could no longer have a conversation in our common area.”
Nicholas Chan, another resident, said conversations and laughter emanating from Bier Garden have made it difficult for him and his pregnant wife to sleep at night. Chan added that his iPhone has recorded sound levels of 55 decibels, and occasionally surpassing 75 decibels, on weekends.
“This is beyond city statute,” Chan said.
Marco Gonzalez, an attorney representing Bier Garden, argued his client is being unfairly targeted. Nearby 1st Street Bar and Grill, which has live music and dancing, accounts for much of the noise in the area, he said.
“How do you know where your sound levels are coming from?” Gonzalez asked.
Other residents said Barracuda Bar and Grill, the previous occupant of the space, wasn’t as loud because fewer people frequented it. Plus, the building lost its soundproofing insulation once Bier Garden renovated the roof.
In response to those concerns, Gonzalez said that Bier Garden owners recently met with a sound engineer in search of solutions to muffle the noise.
Also, earlier in the hearing, he said residents of Pacific Station were made aware they were moving into a dynamic, mixed-use development when they signed housing documents. Consequently, they can’t expect the area to be as quiet as “living in Olivenhain,” Gonzalez said.
Citing residents having a difficult time sleeping, Planning Commissioner Michael O’Grady made a motion to close the windows at 9 p.m.
Living in a mixed-use environment is one thing, but it’s “another thing not to enjoy the property that you have,” O’Grady said.
However, that motion failed.
Planning Commission Chair Kurt Groseclose said 9 p.m. seemed like an arbitrary time. The Sheriff’s Department recommended 10 p.m., he noted.
“We, as a Planning Commission, are not an enforcement body,” he said, adding that he defers to law enforcement.
With O’Grady opposed and Planning Commissioner Anthony Brandenburg absent, the 10 p.m. window-closing time ultimately passed with a 3-1 vote.
A larger debate over alcohol-serving bars and restaurants is on tap for next week.
The Encinitas City Council will discuss options for quelling noise associated with downtown drinking at its Aug. 28 meeting. The Encinitas Hospitality Association, a collection of 26 bar and restaurant owners, will present a plan of action then.
Last month, a moratorium on new liquor licenses for late-night establishments failed to pass.