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About a dozen residents attend a Jan. 26 Coffee with the Sheriff, where issues with late-night bar patrons dominated the discussion. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek
About a dozen residents attend a Jan. 26 Coffee with the Sheriff, where issues with late-night bar patrons dominated the discussion. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek
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Bar patrons top Coffee with the Sheriff meeting

DEL MAR — Issues related to inebriated people leaving Del Mar’s downtown bars — specifically Jimmy O’s — dominated Coffee with the Sheriff, a Jan. 26 question-and-answer session held at the City Hall annex.

About 10 residents attended the informal discussion, including several who live in an apartment complex at the corner of Stratford Court and 15th Street, just south of where Jimmy O’s is located.

Complaints included excessive noise from patrons after the sports bar and restaurant closes at 2 a.m., intoxicated people urinating on the sidewalk and trash such as beer bottles left around the neighborhood.

“It’s been night after night after night after night of drunks, loud noises, no one enforces parking, and it’s really getting old,” Cheryl Hallenbeck said. “I’m going out every night at 1 in the morning, 2 in the morning, 3 in the morning … and asking them to be quiet.

“By the time we would place a call to the sheriff they’re already gone and they’ve already disturbed the peace,” she added. “And it would be one thing if it was just occasionally because we know … we live in a beach community. But we’re talking six nights a week.”

Hallenbeck said she woke up one morning and found a person passed out on her patio. On a Sunday night in November, Valerie Houchin’s parked car was demolished by a drunken driver deputies later confirmed had been a patron at Jimmy O’s.

“Not a good way to start your Monday morning with your car being totaled,” she said.

“We are looking at ways to … make it better for you guys, for your quality of life,” Capt. Theresa Adams-Hydar said.

But if a deputy is responding to a robbery elsewhere the unit is tied up. “Unfortunately your call might come in and as much as we want to go right away, we can’t get there immediately and so frustration sets in,” Adams-Hydar said. “And it’s just as frustrating for us not to be able to service you guys in the way that we want to.”

She and her deputies discouraged residents from confronting the patrons as Hallenbeck has.

“I just don’t want you to get hurt,” Adams-Hydar said.

“That’s when it escalates from you telling somebody who may be a little inebriated, being loud in the loud drunk-talking voice that a lot of people get versus you being the victim of a serious crime because you’re protecting your right to sleep,” Sgt. Joe Tomaiko said.

“And we don’t want to see that because then that’s going to jump it up to a priority one or zero call, which means you’re going to get a deputy right away but you’re also probably going to be going to the hospital,” he said. “We absolutely don’t want that.”

Residents suggested closing the bar earlier but were told the license for Jimmy O’s allows the business to remain open until 2 a.m.

There was a request that deputies ticket people who are clearly drunk as they leave the bar. Adams-Hydar said they can’t simply write a citation and let a person go.

“If we have deemed that they are no longer able to provide for their own safety we have to put them into custody,” she said. The officer then has to drive the offender to Vista, which takes the unit off the beat.

Adams-Hydar said they could bring in a van and fill it with inebriated people on occasion to send a message, but it can’t be done all the time because it requires manpower and funding.

A resident who asked if the Jimmy O’s security guards could help monitor the situation was told it was outside their jurisdiction.

“As soon as (patrons) leave Jimmy O’s property … their security folks are not responsible, Tomaiko said. “Now if they choose to take the extra step and walk down and make sure they’re not creating extra noise by your apartment they’ve opened themselves to civil liability, and I guarantee that’s not going to happen.”

Residents also have issues with the way the city is dealing with the problem.

“I don’t think the businesses that are the violators here think that Del Mar takes any of this seriously,” Hallenbeck said. “They just know that you’re not going to call them.”

City Manager Scott Huth disagreed, saying city officials worked with Jimmy O’s a few years ago to successfully solve code enforcement issues, such as loud music.

“Your issue, frankly, isn’t so much with Jimmy O’s,” Huth said. “It’s the patrons that leave intoxicated.”

Adams-Hydar said businesses are not necessarily responsible for people once they leave the establishment unless there is proof they were underage or overserved.

She said one possible solution would be for residents to allow deputies to sit in their homes in the early morning hours to witness the behavior. Huth suggested setting up a Neighborhood Watch program. He said they have been successful in other cities.

Adams-Hydar and Huth said they would reach out to Jimmy O’s to address some of the concerns.

“The property owner is interested in the issues being discussed,” Huth said.

“They’re bringing dollars into your city,” Tomaiko said. “To lose a business in the city of Del Mar impacts the city negatively. … We don’t want to see negative impacts.

“We want to work with them to try and get them to be responsible license holders and care about the neighbors because if they don’t they’re going to lose that license,” he added.

“I don’t want any issues with Jimmy O’s,” resident Jeff Everett said. “They’re a business here and they’re doing the best they can. So I have no qualms against someone trying to make money in the community. A lot of people like Jimmy O’s.”

Hallenbeck sent what Huth described as the most detailed email he’s seen in his three years with the city expressing her concerns but did not send it to Jimmy O’s.

“The manager is a nice guy,” she said. “But he’s well aware of the problems. They just think the neighbors want to shut them down.”

Management at Jimmy O’s did not respond to a request for comment.

In addition to problems at Jimmy O’s, residents asked about a recent proposal to form a mini-police department in the city. Huth said the plan is in the very early stages. He has yet to discuss it in detail with Adams-Hydar.

There was also a brief discussion about gangs and crime in the city.

“You don’t have gangs per se in Del Mar at all,” Adams-Hydar said. “There are documented gangs in Solana Beach and Encinitas but very small and very inactive. They don’t do much. They just can’t get it together.”

She said criminals do come in from other jurisdictions. “Do you get preyed upon here?” she asked. “Absolutely if you’re making yourself an easy target by keeping your bike unlocked, which happens here all the time. If you’re not locking your vehicle, which happens here all the time.”

She said even if cars are locked people should not leave purses, iPhones and other valuables on the seat.

Coffee with the Sheriff meetings are held quarterly as part of the department’s community outreach and to give residents an opportunity to learn about public safety and share concerns about law enforcement on any variety of topics.

The official meeting began at 6 p.m. But the Del Mar Foundation had a function occurring at the same time, so Adams-Hydar and a few city staff members were on hand an hour earlier.

About three or four residents attended that session. The discussion primarily focused on how the California vehicle code pertains to bicyclists, a topic addressed at the Coffee with the Sheriff meeting in September.