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Neighbors Say They’ve Had Bellyful of Belly Up Noise

Times Staff Writer

When the Belly Up Tavern was founded in Solana Beach in 1974, an ordinary Quonset hut was turned into a plain beer and billiard hall. But the change didn’t end there. The South Cedros Avenue bar gradually evolved from a neighborhood tavern into a full-fledged nightclub--attracting top-flight entertainment, and customers from all over North County.

But, to its detractors, the club’s success has come at a price. Some neighbors believe the flourishing night life has trampled on their tranquility. They complained to authorities that drunken customers have increasingly caused disturbances--from shouting and fighting outside the bar to urinating on their fences--in the otherwise peaceful neighborhood.

Not satisfied that the club’s owners were adequately responding to their complaints, those residents took their cause to the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. The case, filed in June, 1980, is being heard this week in front of administrative law judge Stephen J. Smith, who will decide whether to recommend penalties against the tavern.

If the residents and the ABC have their way, the tavern will have three options: close at 11 p.m. instead of 2 a.m., relinquish its liquor license, or move from the area entirely, said David B. Wainstein, attorney for the ABC.

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“I don’t think any of the options are fair to our rights,” Dave Hodges, principal owner of the Belly Up, said. “It’s a balancing of rights. It’s the benefit of Belly Up versus the inconvenience of the neighbors. We don’t think revoking our license . . . is an equitable solution.”

Specifically, the residents who are complaining live in two households next to the Belly Up parking lot. They claim the tavern is operated as a “disorderly house” and violates the state business and professional code. The two households, following instructions provided by the ABC, began keeping a log of noise complaints, which eventually totaled 123 entries.

Efforts to Cut Noise

In an effort to remedy the problem, Hodges hired extra security workers, instituted a valet parking system and insulated the tavern’s roofs and walls to contain noise. Nevertheless, the complaints continued.

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“They’ve gotten too big for the area,” said Neita Streff, one of the residents who has lodged a complaint and who has lived with her husband, Robert, in the Solana Beach neighborhood for 30 years. “They don’t have the facility to handle the crowd. Think about us. This is a lifetime investment for us,” she said of their house. “We love it here. It’s the ideal spot.”

In the face of such complaints, the Belly Up has received support from others in the community. For example, Hodges said, there was a “staggering turnout” for the tavern’s free concert Sunday night, “The Last Roundup?”

The solution to the problem, Hodges said, lies in communication between the tavern and the complaining residents.


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