Kathy May's Lakeview Café, in Huntington Beach Central Park, will not be able to serve alcohol.
The Huntington Beach City Council, on a 4-3 vote Monday, said it was unfair to change the terms of the 10-year lease with the city, which disallows alcohol, after only two years. Also, allowing the restaurant to acquire a liquor license would have meant amending the municipal code that bars consumption of alcohol in city parks and other public places as well as modifying a zoning code.
Council members Jim Katapodis, Connie Boardman, Dave Sullivan and Joe Carchio voted to deny the restaurant permission to acquire a liquor license.
May told the council that she would comply with all Alcohol Beverage Control regulations and that her business has a great reputation among patrons.
"My thing is food first," she said. "The beer and wine is just to accompany the meal."
In support of May, whom he called a responsible owner, Councilman Joe Shaw said there was no danger of the restaurant turning into a bar.
Though Katapodis, Boardman, Sullivan and Carchio stated a fondness for the eatery, they said an exemption would not have been fair to the other restaurants that bid to lease the Central Park location from the city almost three years ago.
In August 2011, May entered into a 10-year lease with the city, which owns the park property, to sell breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Boardman said May knew the conditions of taking over the site, including having to pay for improvements, such as making the restrooms compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and accepting the prohibition on serving alcohol in a public park.
"I really don't like the idea, changing the conditions of a lease two years into a 10-year lease," she said. "I imagine that if we had, at the offset, said that [the business could] have beer and wine and stay open until 9 p.m. that we would have had a lot more people bidding on the lease."
May had not requested to stay open later.
The city in 2011 was looking for a local restaurant to take over the location, which had housed Alice's Breakfast in the Park for about 30 years.
While some businesses were interested, many didn't pursue a lease because they wanted the city to pay for the improvements to the building, according to a city report.
Carchio added Monday that the businesses walked away from the deal because they couldn't sell alcohol.
He also said that if the city made an exemption for Kathy May's, it should allow the same exemptions at the other concessions at Central Park — the Park Bench Café and HB Outdoor BBQ & Snacks.
"It's hard for me to just sit there and cherry pick and say that we're going to allow it here and not allow it there," Carchio said.
He later said that if the council members allowed those Central Park establishments to serve alcohol, they should also allow the Shipley Nature Center to serve wine and the Disc Golf Course to set up a beer garden.