Downtown Task Force Potential Strategies and Tools
Thursday September 12th, there is a Downtown Task Force to address many of the Downtown Issues.The meeting starts at 5:30pm at the Main Street Library. We encourage everyone to attend.
Based upon our Open Meeting on August 7, 2013, input from our neighbors, and our experience with various government entities (1), HB Neighbors suggest the HB Downtown Task Force consider the following strategies or tools to better manage the Downtown Huntington Beach alcohol problems:
1) Stiffen the Entertainment Permits- Once a bar or restaurant receives a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) from the City of HB and an Alcohol license from ABC, that location retains the right to serve food and alcohol. Those rights can be transferred to new bar owners with limited input from the City of HB. However, most of the Downtown HB bars also have Entertainment Permits (EP) issued annually by the city and enforced by the HB Chief of Police. This tool has been used a few times in recent years to reprimand poor bar operations. The City of HB should much more strictly regulate these Entertainment Permits so the HB Police has more control over the bar’s late night operations. Our neighboring beach city, Newport Beach has been effectively using this tool.
2) Track Each Bar’s Alcohol Crime- The HB Police Department should annually track the alcohol related crimes (DUIs, ABC infractions, etc.) that are associated with each HB Downtown Bar. HBPD should limit the Bar’s Entertainment Permit if they are generating an undue level of alcohol related crimes. HBPD should post to the public the guidelines of enforcement and the crimes upon conviction. Most Downtown Bars are equipped with video surveillance that will protect responsible and well operated bars.
3) Expand Late Night Bar Rules- The City of HB has recently established bar rules for late night operations including single alcohol servings only prior to closing and no late night drink specials. These rules need to be expanded with more enforcement tools.
4) Expand Private Security- Some of the larger Downtown commercial property owners should provide more security commensurate with the number of alcohol serving tenants within their buildings. If a property owner chooses to lease to more than two bars or liquor stores, they should provide Private Security after 8pm. The more alcohol serving tenants the property owner chooses to lease to, the more private security they should provide. This private security should be patrolling outside of the bars and be of additional assistance (and set of eyes) for HBPD. This strategy is not calling for another Bar Bouncer but a trained uniformed security officer equipped with a radio. Some property owners already provide late night Private Security. This strategy seems fair and equitable. As an example, at the intersection of Main Street and PCH are two large properties. One has four large bars (seeking a 5th license) and the other corner, Jack’s has no bars or liquor stores. The Landlord that chooses to contribute to the alcohol issues in Downtown HB should also contribute to the security of the sidewalks adjoining their property. We understand downtown Fullerton utilizes this strategy.
5) More Police Presence and Enforcement- The City of Huntington Beach chose to increase from three to forty-one the number of bars in Downtown since the days of the Golden Bear so they could generate more sales tax, but they have not expanded the number of Police Officers patrolling Downtown during busy weekends. We commend the job Chief Small and his officers have been doing, but they need more officers. The lack of HBPD officers and Private Security on the third block of Main Street led to the July 28, 2013 riot. At random weekend nights, the HBPD needs to have a dedicated team to enforce drinking and late night partying in the residential neighborhoods adjoining Downtown. Many of the bar patrons regularly party at their cars because there are not adequate police resources to respond to residents’ complaints. The city generates a lot of sales tax from the bars and restaurants, and now they need to adequately protect the residents, tourists and retail employees.
6) More Video Surveillance- Just weeks before the July 28th riot, the HB City Council appropriated funds to install a limited Video Surveillance System on the Downtown streets The system was not operational on July 28th. This system needs to be expanded prior to next summer. Also, most of the Downtown bars have video surveillance. If a Downtown bar wants the right to serve alcohol and provide entertainment with an Entertainment Permit, they need to install an adequate Video Surveillance System.
7) Maintain a list of Downtown Bars and Capacities- In 2011, HB Neighbors created a list of all Downtown alcohol serving “on-sale” establishments, capacities, hours of operation, and Entertainment Permits. Up until that time, the City of Huntington Beach and ABC did not know how many bar customers were spilling into the streets at closing time. HB Neighbors created this list as a tool for governing officials and the HBPD. If the city is finally going to address the alcohol issues, they need to know the cumulative effects of each additional alcohol license they keep adding or expanding. The city staff should maintain this list, expand it, incorporate it when writing staff reports, and use it as a tool when making decisions concerning Downtown alcohol establishments. By the way, HB Neighbors was the first to identify that Downtown Huntington Beach has one of the highest concentrations of alcohol licenses in California. Police Chief Ken Small has recently been repeating this statement. Within Downtown, there are 41 bar/restaurants with a total capacity of over 6,300 patrons. For the entire State of California, we challenge anyone to find a higher concentration of alcohol licenses than what we have within a two-block radius, from the intersection of Main and Walnut.
8) Create a New CUP for future Restaurants- One of the contributing issues creating the current Downtown problems is a term HB Neighbors coined “License Creep”. This is where a nice little sandwich shop requests a alcohol license so they can help their sales by offering beer and wine, closing by 9pm. A new owner expands the license to include liquor, their operating hours, and obtains an Entertainment Permit. An example of this is Deville. This License Creep happens in many cities. HB Neighbors is not opposed to restaurants operated by responsible owners. The County of Ventura created a model Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to prevent License Creep. The City of HB needs to stiffen their CUPs to prevent License Creep.
9) Limit the Sale of One Ounce Liquor Bottles- There are a number of Downtown liquor stores that sell one ounce liquor bottles. Many of these bottles are consumed by customers that later are in bars to get around the rules of the bars. These small liquor bottles should be banned from Downtown Liquor stores.
10) Town Hall Meeting- Conduct a town hall meeting Downtown with a panel of officials explaining the permitting process and enforcement with California ABC, HB Planning Department granting CUPs, and the enforcement and resources by HBPD.
HB Neighbors is suggesting solutions to improve our Downtown Neighborhood. We did not orginate many of these tools. HB Neighbors thought this was a good summary of stategies that have been used or discussed. We refer to this list as the HBN Tool Box.
(1)These include the City of Huntington Beach, California Coastal Commission, California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), California Office of Historic Preservation and the HB Police Dept.