Bar and restaurant owners may sue the city of Walnut Creek if it moves forward with new rules that would crack down on alcohol sales, according to reports.
On Thursday night, the city's Planning Commission recommended that the City Council approve a new nuisance abatement ordinance for downtown businesses that serve alcohol. The ordinance would establish performance standards for all bars and restaurants, including long-standing businesses with varying land use permits.
"Bars and restaurants in Walnut Creek are treated in a variety of different ways depending on when they came into the city," said City Attorney Brian Winter, adding that older establishments have more protection from city action. "This is not an effort to punish any establishments in Walnut Creek, it's an effort to have a tool on the books that the city can use if it needs to in the future to ensure the health and safety of residents."
The ordinance's performance standards, which would allow an alcoholic beverage-selling establishment to continue operation, are as follows:
- It does not result in adverse effects to the health, peace or safety of persons residing or working in the surrounding area;
- It does not result in jeopardizing or endangering the public health or safety of
persons residing or working in the surrounding area;
- It does not result in repeated nuisance activities within the premises or in close proximity to the premises, including but not limited to disturbance of the peace, illegal drug activity, public drunkenness, drinking in public, harassment of passersby, gambling, prostitution, sale of stolen goods, public urination, theft, assaults, batteries, acts of vandalism, excessive littering, loitering, graffiti, illegal parking, excessive loud noises, especially in the late night or early morning hours, traffic violations, curfew violations, lewd conduct, or police detentions and arrests;
- It does not result in violations of any applicable provision of any other city, state or federal regulation, ordinance, or statute
- Its upkeep and operating characteristics are compatible with and will not adversely affect the livability or appropriate development of abutting properties and the surrounding neighborhood.
Under the ordinance, if an establishment is deemed a nuisance, its ability to serve alcohol may be modified to comply with performance standards or, ultimately revoked. According to a staff report, " An establishment whose deemed approved status has been revoked is no longer considered a legal use of the premises or site and must cease operation immediately. Any continued operation of the establishment would require approval of a (conditional use permit)."
But some of business said that they believe their businesses aren't part of the problem or that they are being regulated enough already. KTVU reported that several bar and restaurant owners have formed a group and have hired lawyers who are threatening to sue if the city moves forward with the ordinance.
Much of the legislation is the result of several high profile incidents that resulted in violence, hospitalization and injury to three Walnut Creek Police officers. Earlier this year, Walnut Creek cut the hours of Lift Lounge back to 11:30 p.m. after a series of problems and a large number of calls to police.
Conversely, Walnut Creek Mayor Bob Simmons declared victory over nightlife violence last month. Increased patrols and decreased business hours have contributed to a noticeable drop in calls requesting police response on weekends, Simmons noted.
The ordinance will be discussed during the Walnut Creek City Council's May 1 meeting.