Planning Commission to consider alcohol regulations

ENCINITAS — Encinitas could reconsider the adoption of an ordinance that would crack down on unruly bars along the Coast Highway 101 corridor, three years after the city opted against approving it.

The so-called “deemed approved” ordinance is one of several options the Planning Commission on Thursday could recommend the City Council adopt as part of an effort to corral what some residents see as an out-of-control nightlife scene in downtown Encinitas.

The Planning Commission in February voted against a moratorium on new alcohol serving establishments, opting to give staff a chance to come up with new standards that they would present this month.

Staff also took several recommendations by a group called the Encinitas Citizens Committee — spearheaded by former Councilman Dennis Holz — under consideration

Deemed approved ordinances give cities more latitude in enforcing nuisance rules and revoking business licenses on establishments that are subject to less restrictions due to their grandfathered status.

In the case of Encinitas, the ordinance would target all alcohol serving establishments that are open after 10 p.m., or 41 of the city’s 131 alcohol serving establishments, making them subject to tougher noise, trash and other nuisance standards. The ordinance could also subject the businesses to a fee to cover costs incurred by the city for the nuisance complaints.

Encinitas considered a deemed approved ordinance in 2014, but opted to take a proactive enforcement approach to the downtown bar scene.

Since then, the city has stepped up enforcement, including increasing the sheriff’s overtime budget by $100,000, which has allowed deputies to target downtown and as a result lower calls for service in the area.

But some residents and groups — including the Self Realization Fellowship on downtown’s southern edge — have said that the city hasn’t gone far enough and rowdy behavior tied to the bar scene still is an issue.

The deemed approved ordinance is included in two of three optional recommendations staff has outlined to the commission in the staff report for Thursday’s meeting.

The second option that includes a deemed-approved component comes from the City of Ventura, which staff identified as a potential model for Encinitas. Ventura requires businesses that want to sell alcohol to obtain a special permit and pay a fee based on the type of business and scale of alcohol sales.

City staff has also come up with its own proposal of new standards, which would, among other tings, bar new alcohol-serving establishments that don’t serve food, require food service during the same time alcohol is served, bar restaurants from having their lines queue on public streets and sidewalks and cut off alcohol from being served after 10 p.m. unless permitted by the city.

The department’s standards would only affect new businesses.

In addition, the staff is recommending the planning commission ask the council to direct staff to craft language for city code that differentiates bars from restaurants with food and draft an entertainment license similar to the one Carlsbad recently adopted.

The Planning Commission meeting starts at 6 p.m. at Encinitas City Hall, 505 S. Vulcan Ave.

1 Comment
  1. Arun Iyengar 2 months ago

    Good. But Encinitas must do more to curb this pleasant town turning into Pottersville of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

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