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Planning Commission delays decision on Union expansion

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas Planning Commission voted to delay its decision on a proposed patio expansion by Union Kitchen and Tap until it receives a report from city staff on the proliferation of alcohol-serving establishments along the Coast Highway 101 corridor.

The downtown restaurant-bar had proposed a 500-square-foot outdoor patio area where alcohol would be served, but would close at 10 p.m. and prohibits live or amplified music.

The request appears to be the tipping point for the Planning Commission, which for months had raised concerns about the growing number of bars, restaurants that served alcohol and other establishments that sold alcohol along the city’s 6-mile coastal corridor, but typically had approved the applications that had come before them.

This time, however, they voted to table the decision until at least Feb. 16, when they are scheduled to receive the staff report, which will also provide information about what constitutes an “over-concentration” of such establishments under state law.

“I don’t think we have a good handle on what is happening down there unless I am walking down there patrolling,” Commissioner Glenn O’Grady said. “I just feel there is no guidance from above on what kind of mix we want downtown, and we can’t go on just how we feel.”

Commissioner Al Apuzzo recommended the group delay the decision. He said that he didn’t feel like the proposed patio addressed the concerns of residents to the east of Union, which came out in force to urge the commission to reject the project.

Residents in recent years have complained to city officials about the increase in alcohol establishments downtown, including the Self Realization Fellowship, which told the city in a letter dated Jan. 3 that the increasing rowdiness associated with the bars had spoiled the peace and quiet that many of the visitors of the center seek.

Proprietors of the businesses, however, have argued that residents were overreacting to a handful of scofflaw bar patrons and establishments, painting the rest of the businesses with an unfair and broad stroke.