The Hermosa Beach City Council on Tuesday unanimously upheld a planning commission decision to scale back the closing time of Cafe Boogaloo from 2 a.m. to midnight following what city staff called poor management and lack of security at the Hermosa Avenue establishment.
The decision came after city staff highlighted "a number and pattern of serious incidents and behavior" at Cafe Boogaloo that included incidents of underage drinking, arrests for public intoxication, violations of its conditional use permit and an undercover investigation by police that found employees were allegedly selling narcotics.
An audit presented by city staff also found that Cafe Boogaloo – which is classified and permitted as a restaurant – was selling more alcohol than food and not focusing on restaurant activity. Staff also pointed out that the "abundance" of televisions in Boogaloo promoted a sports bar rather than restaurant atmosphere.
Following Tuesday's decision, Albro Lundy, an attorney representing Nancy Colville – who owns the property Cafe Boogaloo occupies – said that because the reduced hours are tied to the property's conditional use permit and not Cafe Boogaloo itself, the property is now worth less for Colville.
"Right now, we are going to figure out exactly what is going on," Lundy said. "At this point, there is a significant loss in the property value."
During Tuesday's meeting, Lundy initially asked the City Council for a 60-day continuance on the decision to give Colville time to make changes at her property. Lundy said that Colville had just found out about the problems with her tenant and was not ruling out replacing Cafe Boogaloo with a new tenant or management if necessary.
"What we want now is just an opportunity to essentially remove the current management and put in management which echos the days before current management was in," Lundy said. "We have already been contacted by a very reputable establishment... who are interested in Cafe Boogaloo as we speak with the proper financial backing who are looking to do the right thing."
Lundy's request for a continuance was eventually denied in a 3-2 vote, forcing the City Council to discuss and vote on whether to uphold Cafe Boogaloo's reduced hours. Mayor Kit Bobko and mayor pro tem Michael DiVirgilio cast the two dissenting votes.
On Dec. 5 of last year, the Planning Commission voted 5-0 to direct staff to return with a resolution reducing Cafe Boogaloo's closing time from 2 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily with live entertainment ceasing at 12:30 a.m. On Jan. 15, the commission further modified the resolution to to require a midnight closing with live entertainment ceasing at 11:30 p.m. in a 3-2 vote.
On Tuesday, in the hopes that the council would not uphold the scaled back hours, Cafe Boogaloo shareholders Frank and Nick Klutka, who also emphasized they were not aware of the serious incidents at the establishment until this week, said they are moving forward with plans to remove manager Gary Alonso, hire a new lead chef, promote food instead of drink specials and take down as many televisions as the city staff recommends.
"It is our belief that these changes will affect a culture change at the establishment... We intend to go forward with this plan no matter what happenings this evening," Frank Klutka told the council. "We all have a lot invested here... We would like the opportunity to make that change and make things right with everyone."
Despite promises of change though, many on the council said they were doubtful those changes would make any difference.
"I think that the problems at that location regardless of who operates it are habitual and probably will continue regardless," Councilman Jeff Duclos stated, adding that the location is not being run as a restaurant. "I think that if someone did go in there – whether it be the investors who came up here or some other operator – with the intent to establish a bonafide quality restaurant, I think its chances of succeeding would be great."
Councilman Howard Fishman and Peter Tucker both argued that the problems at Cafe Boogaloo have been known for a while.
"There really is no excuse for these continuing problems that have been going on for years," Fishman said. "Everybody is late here and we as a council have a responsibility to take action based on the facts presented... There is nothing that I heard tonight to convince me not to support the recommendation of the planning commission."
While Mayor Pro Tem Michael DiVirgilio agreed that something needed to be done to fix the problems at Cafe Boogaloo, he said that simply reducing hours is ignoring the larger problem in Hermosa Beach.
"We really salivate when we get the chance to take away hours... It is a very PR sounding thing to do. It makes us look a lot better than we do," DiVirgilio said. "Taking away hours from one establishment at a time doesn't address the problem... We can do this but this isn't what solves the problem."
Mayor Kit Bobko also expressed a desire to find a solution that was mutually agreeable to all parties but realized he would be outvoted. Bobko said he would have rather given the landowner a chance to make things right and likened the final solution of reduced hours to a "public beheading."
"When you tell me there is no other solution to this other than reduce the hours, I just don't believe it," Bobko said. "We want to convince people to do the right thing rather than bludgeon them into that conclusion."
Despite their wish for a different solution though, both Bobko and DiVirgilio voted unanimously with the other three members of the council to uphold the reduced hours, saying it was a better solution than no solution at all.
Moving forward, Lundy said he and Colville will sit down with Cafe Boogaloo shareholders to work out the details of the establishment's future.
Lundy said that because Cafe Boogaloo jeopardized the building's CUP, he could work towards filing and unlawful detainer that would essentially cause Cafe Boogaloo to lose the lease on the building and be forced out. However, after Tuesday's meeting, Lundy would not confirm whether or not that action would be taken and said both parties will first need to sort out the details.
For those frequenting the establishment, Cafe Boogaloo will now close at midnight and all live music will cease by 11:30 p.m.