Two Huntington Beach restaurants got approval from the City Council on Monday night to bypass a resolution that requires certain downtown establishments to close by midnight.
The council voted 5-1 to authorize a conditional use permit for HQ Gastropub, which will occupy 155 Fifth St., formerly the site of RA Sushi. The restaurant also was granted an exception to the 2013 resolution that requires alcohol-serving businesses that are seeking a new or amended conditional use permit to close by midnight.
Councilwoman Jill Hardy dissented and Councilman Billy O'Connell recused himself because he has business interests downtown.
The council also voted 4-2, with Hardy and Councilman Erik Peterson dissenting and O'Connell recused, to approve Black Bull Chop House's request for an amended conditional use permit with an exception to the midnight-closure requirement.
The restaurant at 300 Pacific Coast Hwy. needed the permit amendment to replace an outdoor dining area with a new one.
The 2013 resolution was part of a continuing effort to control often-rowdy crowds that leave area bars early in the morning. But some council members have said the resolution may cripple businesses.
The Planning Commission had voted to recommend HQ Gastropub's permit without an exception to the midnight-closure requirement. The establishment, which will serve food and cocktails, plans to operate until 2 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays after it opens in May.
Mark Matters, the restaurant's managing director, said at Monday's meeting that not being able to stay open late "would place [the] brand at a major disadvantage" against competing local establishments.
Council members generally favored the request, saying they believe the business would attract high-end clientele.
"This is a step in the right direction for downtown," Councilman Patrick Brenden said.
Mayor Pro Tem Mike Posey said granting the exception would allow HQ Gastropub to be on a level playing field with competing businesses.
Provisions were added to the agreement establishing security requirements for busy nights and strengthening the city's ability to revoke the permit.
In casting her dissenting vote, Hardy said she would be fine with the restaurant serving food after midnight but not alcohol.
Resident Richard Plummer told the council he doesn't think the business should be exempt from the closure rule.
"Nothing good ever happens after midnight," Plummer said.
In the council's discussion on Black Bull Chop House, most members favored the requested modification because the current outdoor area has drawn nuisance complaints from a nearby condominium complex. But some council members were against the restaurant maintaining its current scheduling allowance. It is open until 1:30 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and until 10 p.m. Sundays through Wednesdays, but has the ability to remain open until 1:30 a.m. every day.
Peterson said the council should authorize the midnight-closure exception only for Thursdays through Saturdays and not for any other days.
But owner Cesar Pena said he needs the flexibility to expand his hours during the summer and on holidays or he couldn't make the financial decision to build the new patio.