By Tim Hunt
New rules downtownUploaded: Nov 29, 2012
After three years of wrangling and the requisite Pleasanton task force, the City Council approved new guidelines for entertainment after 10 p.m. in the downtown district.
Some restaurants that feature live music pushed for the later hour to drive additional business and to do so without a burdensome approval process through the city offices. The council approved the compromise plan that streamlined the regulations and set up two districts with different regulatory requirements. The core Main Street businesses can stay open until 11 p.m. now without a special permit.
The challenge, particularly for businesses located off Main Street, is the proximity of residential neighborhoods, particularly along Peters Avenue. Of course, popular spots such as Barone's, which does a vibrant outdoor business in the summer, are located close to homes. The same goes for restaurants on St. Mary's Street.
The broader challenge is whether a few downtown businesses trying to gather more dollars in what has been a difficult economic time should fundamentally alter the downtown scene. I understand that viewpoint, but Pleasanton is a family town. There's a limited downtown entertainment scene because it's the character of the community, not a lack of offerings.
Pleasanton leaders need to look no farther than the thriving downtown Walnut Creek, which has an enviable retail district with Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus as anchors plus a vibrant restaurant scene. When the city allowed that restaurant/bar group to continue to expand hours, the calls for service for the police department skyrocketed. The city was attracting non-residents interested in late night partyinghardly a demographic that lives in the city or brings a positive influence to the community. The city has had to crack down on those late night operations.
Lengthening hours to bring in non-residents may not have the result they anticipate. Remember the violence at the Neo night club in one of the Hacienda Business Park strip malls. That location has the advantage of no residential neighbors and pretty isolated streets during evening hours.
The city needs to carefully monitor how well this new ordinance works over the next year to ensure that it has not made the same mistake that Walnut Creek did.
It's also worth remembering the sad experience of the Alameda County Fair on July 4th. The fair drew two crowds on July 4th, one family oriented group during the daytime and a much younger and, frankly tougher, crowd once the sun went down. That second crowd resulted in a shooting on the fairgrounds more than 10 years ago and resulted in the elimination of the fireworks since that time. That's why the fair has used metal detectors at its gates.