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Proposed Alcohol Law On The Agenda

The City Council will vote on the widely discussed nuisance-based law.

The Walnut Creek City Council will hold a public hearing Tuesday night on a proposed city ordinance intended to regulate establishments selling alcohol.

The City Council meets at 7 p.m. in the Council Chamber at City Hall, 1666 N. Main St.

The purpose of the much-discussed Alcoholic Beverage Sales Ordinance, according to a staff report by the Community Development Department and City Attorney’s Office, is “to regulate the establishment and operation of new alcoholic beverage businesses and to protect the public health, safety and general welfare of the community by requiring that all alcoholic beverage establishments in the city comply with nuisance-based performance standards.”

“This is basically to provide an additional tool for the city to have some control over alcohol-serving establishments violating public nuisance standards,” explained Laura Simpson, principal planner and housing program manager for the city. “It allows the city to impose some operating conditions if violations have occurred that affect public health and safety.”

Simpson said there is some controversy because bar and restaurant owners are concerned the city will impose conditions based on things that are out of their control.

“The city is only taking into account what is within the establishment’s control – either on-site or related to their business,” she said. “The goal is to prevent any dangerous situations and to improve communication around any issues related to late-night service hours.”

City officials have talked about a nuisance-based law due to concern about a series of brawls rolling out of downtown bars around closing time on weekends.

The proposed ordinance is explained in the staff report as follows: "These performance standards differ from CUP (conditional use permit) conditions in that they are general in nature, can be applied to all alcoholic beverage establishments equally, and focus on nuisance and criminal activity that may be associated with alcoholic beverage sales rather than land use. Thus, under a deemed approved ordinance, the sale and service of alcoholic beverages is a deemed approved activity so long as the alcoholic beverage establishment complies with the general performance standards required of the deemed approved status."

The report also states that “although most new restaurants did not create a need for police services, the overall number of inebriated patrons converging in the downtown began to place a significant demand on city resources, with these effects being most pronounced between the hours of 11 p.m. and 3 a.m."

On March 29, the Planning Commission unanimously approved a resolution recommending the City Council adopt the proposed ordinance.

City Council members will also consider a proposal to renovate Civic Park. That plan includes the construction of a permanent location for the ice rink.

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