Council Approves Alcohol Nuisance Ordinance

Despite objections from downtown bars and restaurants, the council unanimously approved the much-debated proposal

The City Council unanimously approved a nuisance-based ordinance for alcohol establishments Tuesday night that they said will provide clarity and consistency for dealing with downtown bars and restaurants.

The 39-page law doesn't change the basic guidelines and restrictions overseeing establishments that serve alcohol, but it provides what City Attorney Brian Wenter described as a more streamlined and "cleaned up" set of rules.

"We have tools at our disposal now, but they are not as effective as the tools we are proposing," said Wenter.

The ordinance sets up a process for city officials to deal with establishments that have repeated violations or problems. Under it, businesses would be subject to restrictions, such as curtailing of hours for selling alcohol, by city staff. Establishments could appeal these decisions to the Planning Commission and the City Council.

Right now, there are 103 establishments in Walnut Creek that serve alcohol. Of those, 57 are older and not covered under rules adopted in 2004. The other 46 fall under the more recent guidelines.

The new ordinance puts all the businesses under the same set of rules. It takes effect 30 days after the council formally approves it on a second reading at its next meeting.

"This levels the playing field and there are no surprises for anybody," said Councilwoman Cindy Silva.

However, a number of business owners objected to the ordinance. They described it as "vague, ambigious and overboard in its application."

Michael Brown, an attorney who represents the Walnut Creek Hospitality Group, said a business could be blamed for bad behavior such as fights or urinating in public that aren't related to their bar or restaurant.

"It addresses conduct that might have nothing to do with the business establishment," Brown said.

Saul Tallarico, the owner of said current regulations such as dance permits already govern alcohol establishments and he doesn't see the need for a new law.

"There's a lot of standards we already have to live up to," Tallarico said.

Melisa Paden-Barrett, one of the general managers of agreed.

"It's very disconcerting that there is law after law after law," she said.

However, the council was unanimous in supporting the proposed ordinance.

"I think this provides a valuable tool," said Councilman Gary Skrel. "If people are conducting their business properly, then they have nothing to worry about."

"I think this provides a clarity of expectations," added Councilman Kish Rajan.

"It certainly is the right time for this ordinance," remarked Councilwoman Kristina Lawson.

The ordinance was spurred in part by a series of fights outside of bars on weekends last year. In February, using the existing conditional use process,  including scaling the time it must stop serving alcohol from 12:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

The Planning Commission recommended approval of the ordinance last month.

Davidson Freeman May 02, 2012 at 02:49 PM
"I'm from the government and I'm here to help."
Aprohaska May 03, 2012 at 04:14 AM
I don't understand why it's so complicated..I've taught "T.I.P.S" classes to servers, bartenders, and owners for 7 years now....Pretty simple stuff....DONT OVERSERVE!
Ricky Le May 07, 2012 at 11:07 PM
So basically you have created another reason for business to leave the community even if they have been loyal enough to remain for a while. As a patron of most of these places the issue isnt with them, its with the individual. When did we stop holding the individual responsible for their actions and instead blame other people? Own up to what you do and be a man. And you dont need all these rules; just deal with the individual issues as they happen. I have only been in one bar where a fight broke out inside the bar in the last 10 years here. Its not the establishments but rather the people, and it hints at a bigger problem in america that we should be trying to solve. Heres one quick fix, instead of having 20 cop cars driving around, get some of them out on foot and even put them stationary in front of the establishments. If you want to treat them like children just go all the way and put cops in front to babysit the patrons. Does the city council not realize that they have a nice balance that draws people who enjoy spending money in to the town for entertainment, meals, bars, and shops because people can come here and have a good time. Many towns are trying to find ways to encourage people to come, to spend money, to move to the area to keep real estate high and apartments full and when young people consider that the night life is a factor. And you are literally biting a hand that feeds you. IMHO the Bars should post flyers and get the patrons to vote out the members.


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