ENCINITAS — A venerable downtown Encinitas restaurant wanted to expand the number of musicians allowed to perform at the venue and expand the hours of operation by three hours.
The Encinitas Planning Commission granted half of its request.
Roxy Encinitas received the Planning Commission’s blessing to expand the number of artists allowed to perform at the restaurant from three to four and to allow dancing on a limited space in the restaurant’s footprint.
City staff had recommended limiting the number of musicians to two, but the commissioners said they believed the live music added to the downtown ambiance.
“I had just watched a movie at La Paloma and I walked by the Roxy and heard the music and started moving along to it,” Commissioner Jody Hubbard said. “It’s kind of a nice thing as long as it’s not … “
“Intrusive,” Commission Chairman Glenn O’Grady said.
“Exactly, and that it’s not going to impact the residents,” Hubbard said.
The Planning Commission also approved the restaurant’s request to open two hours earlier, at 6 a.m. as opposed to 8 a.m., but declined the request to stay open an hour later to 1 a.m., except for New Year’s Eve.
Commissioners expressed concern about setting a bad precedent along Coast Highway 101, where neighbors’ complaints about noise and alcohol serving establishments came to a head in 2017 when the city adopted stricter standards to curb some of the issues.
But the commission left the door open to Roxy representatives to return at a later date to request the extension.
The Roxy, which has been a staple in downtown Encinitas since 1978, has hosted nearly 600 music acts a year, according to current owner Paula Vrakas.
The restaurant has been hosting live music despite not having a permit from the city to do so because its liquor license from the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control allowed it to have live bands. City officials deemed the disconnect to be a clerical error.
Vrakas said she wanted to have the additional band allowance to allow acts to have an occasional guest performer. She cited an experience when her 90-year-old grandfather wanted to play the clarinet with a jazz band when he was visiting Vrakas from out of town, and the band already had three members.
“My eyes filled with tears because in that moment I realized the opportunity of having my grandfather play at a restaurant that I had poured everything into was worth breaking the rules just that one time,” Vrakas said. “We just simply don’t want to be in trouble for allowing a musician or an artist to show off what they can do.”
Vrakas said the restaurant wanted the later closing time to accommodate occasional requests from private parties to stay open later.
The commission, however, was unwilling to bend on the 1 a.m. closing time, with the exception of New Year’s Eve, for which the city has granted exceptions before.
“Downtown as everyone knows is a very delicate balance,” Commissioner Kevin Doyle said.
The Roxy also requested to keep its windows open until midnight to correspond with the closing time, but the planning commission rejected the request, requiring the restaurant to close the windows at 10 p.m.