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Council Moves Ahead on Developing Alcohol Policy

City directs Planning Commission to gather public input on policy for bars, restaurants.

While continuing its discussion on regulations for alcohol-serving establishments, the Hermosa Beach City Council has directed the Planning Commission to outline policy options by including input from the council, public and business owners.

Council members unanimously agreed that the commission should help create new policy . Some also acknowledged that there’s more work ahead on the road to tackling the alcohol issue.

“We’re on the 5-yard line of a 100-yard discussion on this,” said City Councilman Michael DiVirgilio at the meeting.

For years some residents have complained about annoyances associated with late-night alcohol-serving businesses in the Pier Avenue area—and, for years, the council has tried to eliminate the problems.

“Just last week some girls that I saw going into a restaurant with their bottles of wine were laying down in front my house talking about how they couldn’t stand up because they were so drunk,” Cathy Gunther, who lives on Cypress Avenue, told the council. “And this was at 10:30 at night. They weren’t out on Pier Plaza.”

“We really don’t want a proliferation of alcohol on upper Pier,” Gunther said.

In taking a closer look at policy options, city staffers presented the council with an analysis of ways to:

  1. Reduce the existing and unused hours of on-sale alcohol establishments, which are allowed to serve and sell alcohol on their premises;
  2. Cap the number of restaurants that serve alcohol on upper Pier Avenue (see accompanying staff report by clicking "view gallery" under photo).

While looking at the staff report, DiVirgilio pointed out that there are eateries in the downtown area with permits that allow late-night hours, but they choose to close earlier, such as at 10 p.m. The council is concerned that these unused hours, which are attached to the property, could be used by another business that later moves into the space, for example.

Reducing these hours, and existing hours at some establishments, is one measure the council plans to consider.

The panel also discussed whether an overall cap on the number of restaurants along upper Pier Avenue should be imposed as a means to control the concentration of alcohol-serving establishments in the area.

“It’s a bad mix when you have too many restaurants,” said Mayor Peter Tucker. “We ought to cap what we have now and just say ‘no mas.’ ”

City Councilman Kit Bobko said his concern was not so much the number of restaurants but the type of establishments on a street—“and we’re talking about bars,” he said.

Hermosa Beach resident Sally Liu, who had previously addressed the council with concerns about alcohol-serving restaurants, said she and her neighbors in the area “all agree that we want more businesses that cater to us.”

In the long run, DiVirgilio said, Pier Avenue could develop a reputation for five-star dining.

“That you take your wife to on a 10th anniversary or take your date to or propose to your girlfriend,” he explained. “We’re not going to get a fine dining restaurant if we don’t set up the mechanism for fine dining. … We have the structures in town that are nightclubs and at some point we have to make the leap out of ‘nightclub is where you make the money’ to ‘fine dining restaurant is where you make the money.’ And it’s certainly my hope.”

First, a public hearing on how the city plans to regulate alcohol-serving eateries is necessary, said City Councilman Jeff Duclos, who also urged for placing a cap on the number of alcohol-serving establishments on Pier Avenue.

“I’d rather we talk about the opportunity we have for clarity,” he said.

City Councilman Howard Fishman agreed.

“I think we need to get more input from the public,” he said. “My position is, anything goes at this point for discussion. We have to get input and whether it’s general alcohol, whatever it is, if there’s some things out there for discussion, we should discuss it.”

A video series of the alcohol policy discussion on Hermosa Beach Patch:


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