Local Business

New Bar Rules Proposed for Downtown Fullerton

The City began working on the Downtown Game Plan last year with the first presentation before the Planning Commission in August.

In an effort to deal with the numerous problems created by the late night downtown scene Fullerton Community Development Director Ted White presented to the Planning Commission a series of proposed new regulations for downtown bars at the February 27, 2019 meeting.

White characterized the proposed regulations as “A reset of restaurant regulations, one component of the Downtown Game Plan.”

The new regulations apply to businesses that serve alcohol. The last revision of these regulations was in 2008, commonly known as “the alcohol ordinance” which was a reaction to a 2002 restaurant overlay district ordinance.

The proposed ordinance modifies both the applications for Conditional Use Permits (CUP) and Administrative Use Permits (ARUP) as well as some enforcement methods. All restaurants that serve alcohol and have entertainment must obtain a CUP as well as an Entertainment Permit.The proposed changes include requiring each restaurant to have a security operations plan approved by the Fullerton Police Department (FPD) and the Community Development Department (CDD); allowing ambient music on patios until midnight; banning promoters to operate events; permitting a cover charge after 10pm; eliminating the queuing restriction by a number – judging the restriction of the public right-of-way instead; requiring each server to have responsible beverage training; requiring the posting of a notice regarding limitations on serving alcohol to intoxicated persons; removal of graffiti within 24 hours; and clean-up of trash and debris within 25 feet of the premises as part of the closing process.

Further, restaurants shall not offer drink specials nor require a minimum number of drinks to be ordered. Rules for micro-breweries are also clarified.

Director White noted that ARUPs and CUPs are land-use permits, and once granted, may continue at each location. However, Entertainment permits are issued by FPD and must be renewed each year. Interim Police Chief Bob Dunn said that entertainment permits, per Chapter 3.08 of the Municipal Code, are for dancing, live music by three or more performers, disc jockey presentations and karaoke.

Chief Dunn explained the proposed three step enforcement process which will begin with a “remedy meeting” with the chief and other applicable departments. If necessary, step two is a restriction of entertainment hours, and step three is a more extreme limitation of hours. He said that in Long Beach, where this process is in force, the first step serves to cure the problems.

Adapting to the major changes will require a licensee to apply for a new CUP or ARUP, and the city will waive fees for such applications for the first year after adoption of the ordinance. If a new permit is not applied for, White said, “We will enforce the existing permit.”

White emphasized that “Enforcement is a large piece of any regulatory requirement. Proactive enforcement is the key to successful implementations of new regulations.” There has been a lack of enforcement downtown, he said. He recommended having a dedicated staff position in the FPD and a dedicated code enforcement officer for downtown to assure consistency in enforcement.

Commissioner Kathleen Shanfield questioned use of the word “may” in many regulations. “I want teeth in this,” she said. After discussion among commissioners and staff, it was agreed the language would be changed where appropriate.
The Planning Commission recommended passing the proposed ordinance by unanimous vote with some tightening of the language – replacing “may” with “will” in some instances, and excluding the portions relating to noise regulation.
The noise regulations portion of the draft ordinance was severed from consideration by the commission because of legal objections submitted by Sean Paden from Hammons & Baldino, LLP, representing Bushala Brothers, Inc., to notice CEQA requirements, Noise regulations will be considered at a yet-to-be scheduled hearing.

Public comment came from several downtown licensees: Chris Presla, Back Alley Bar and Grill; Jack Franklin, Heroes; Joe Florentine, Florentine’s Grill and related establishments; John Skeehan, The Bowery and Bourbon Street; Craig Voorting, Stubrik’s Steakhouse; and Aaron Barkenhagen, Bootleggers Brewery.

The owner of the Eighty Eight Cigar Lounge said enforcement is good. Cameron Irons, real estate agent, said owners should get together to figure out how to make more money selling food than selling alcohol.

Former planning commissioner Ryan Cantor cited 757 incidents of crime downtown including 92 DUI’s and 100 public urinations, stating that downtown Fullerton is “a public nuisance.” He noted that one establishment was the source of 15 DUI’s and 25 fights. He recommended it be shut down.

Joshua Ferguson said, “It’s a great plan for the bar owners, but not for other businesses or residents. There is no staff to enforce regulations. We already have to balance our budget by selling property or reducing staff.” He said there were 633 DUI arrests in 2018, an average of 1.7 per day.

Jack Franklin said, “I thank the boys. I think they’re going in the right direction. I talked to Ted today. A complaint I have is about the cleaning up.
Half the businesses on Santa Fe do not have trash pickup. And there are the homeless. Other than that, we support it,” Franklin said.

Craig Voorting said he likes the proposed ordinance “..because it has actual teeth in it. There are no teeth in the current rules.” He said his was the 13th restaurant downtown, that he makes money selling food, “…better than selling alcohol.”

Joe Florentine said “Ted and Matt put together a good plan. We provide you with food and drink and hospitality. Many of us do good. We donated 760 pounds of food last year, and have cooking classes for high school and Crittenden students. We donate a lot…we are normal people like you. This is what we do for a living.” He said there was drinking in cars, smoking “weed,”, that Fullerton is a college town with five universities. There is too much whining and complaining, he said. “You live in Fullerton. If you don’t like it, go to Podunk, go somewhere else.”

Christopher Gaarder, chair of the commission, said, “This isn’t going to solve the downtown’s problems. With a maximum two story downtown, no wonder we have only bars. When you only allow two stories you’re asking for that.” The city decided they want a lot of restaurants so we got a lot of restaurants. People don’t like it. I get it. It’s [the ordinance] probably not perfect but an improvement.”

No dates have yet been set for consideration of the noise regulations, nor for the city councils consideration of the ordinance.

6 replies »

  1. Joe, we’d be glad to leave! How about you pay for the new rent and the moving expense?

    “Resident, n: Unable to leave.” -Ambrose Bierce

  2. What we have now downtown is not working for the greater community and cost benefit ratio must change to reduce the drain on City resources. This proposal is a step in the right direction, it should help to identify the bad actors and encourage their active participation to make the Downtown bar scene a net plus for Fullerton residents.

    If not then the hammer should fall and the number of bars reduced, with enough data and a focused targeted enforcement program by the FPD and the ABC this can be accomplished.

    I disagree with Joe’s comment about Fullerton not being a podunk community, many more people would prefer Podunk to the drunken party scene that exists today. From my observations most of the drunk patrons are not from Fullerton. Let’s identify the vested interests and encourage them to get on board with cleaning things up or have a grass roots effort to follow strict ABC requirements on Bar density.

    Based on the FPD arrest stats it looks like the 420 crowd will reduce the alcohol sales overtime anyway. I’m waiting to see if the tokers fight less than the drunks, if so the “entertainment establishments”, will be forced to change their business plans anyway.

    SP and the B boys must see the handwriting on the wall.

  3. “Christopher Gaarder, chair of the commission, said, “This isn’t going to solve the downtown’s problems. With a maximum two story downtown, no wonder we have only bars. When you only allow two stories you’re asking for that.”

    The City of Orange has a thriving historic downtown with two storey buildings, and somehow they balance bars, actual restaurants, and retail business, and maintain a family friendly atmosphere—with a university nearby. The problem isn’t the height of our buildings. The problem is arrogant bar owners and a craven city council who do their bidding.

  4. This is ridiculously complicated. Other than requiring the bars to do clean up around their establishment, just define broadly what is a bar and jack up their taxes. Use that money to pay for services including police presence that those bars make necessary.

  5. I don’t really get why 2 dedicated employees could do a better job than the four police officers currently employed downtown. Clean up and enforcement of the bar scene costs the city $1.6 million over what is brought in by sales tax for the downtown area. I suppose that if the new enforcement rules work – some of that money might be spent on dedicated employees. It looks as though the bars will now be in charge of cleaning up the mess their customers create so that should cut down some of the clean up costs. And disallowing promotions might cut down the type of customer attracted – especially for the bars that show violent fight videos,

  6. Mr. White now wants to hire two more full-time city employees (1 FPD, 1 city staff) to help enforce these new rules? With what source of money does Mr. White propose we use to hire these new staffers?

    Didn’t the city create their very own problems in the first place with the Restaurant Overlay District?

    Didn’t the city already hire 4 police officers to patrol the downtown area alone? How many more scarce resources are needed to protect the stakeholders and public in and around Downtown Fullerton?

    Asking for a friend…