COSTA MESA : Council Rejects New Ordinance on Bars

The City Council has rejected a proposed ordinance that angry bar and restaurant owners said was too stiff and would cast a pall over their businesses.

Representatives of some of the city's approximately 100 restaurants and bars selling alcoholic drinks during late hours argued Monday that the ordinance reflected an anti-business philosophy and would harm chances to sell their businesses.

The new ordinance would have required owners of new bars and restaurants to obtain conditional use permits to operate from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. It would also have affected some existing businesses upon change of ownership or mode of operation.

It would also have required permits for bars located within 200 feet of residential property and staying open from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Acknowledging that the ordinance "may be a little over-broad," Mayor Mary Hornbuckle moved to scrap it and form a committee of residents and business owners to come up with a more acceptable version.

Councilman Peter Buffa criticized the ordinance for applying "to over 100 businesses selling alcohol when only three or four businesses have caused significant problems.

"It's like shooting a cannon to ring a doorbell," Buffa said.

Jim Walker, owner of the Pasta Mesa Restaurant and president of the Orange County chapter of the California Restaurants Assn., said the city should deal with problem taverns on a one-on-one basis instead of broadly aiming at them all through the ordinance.

The requirement for restaurants and bars to get conditional use permits if they sell alcoholic beverages in late hours would throw "the small industry for a loss and would force owners to face an obstacle course when businesses change hands," said Lee Heinz, executive director of the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce.

Resident James T. Wells defended the ordinance, saying it served the needs of people who live next to bars.

Another resident, Steven Park, told officials he was troubled by a noisy bar and was "sick and tired of the legal crap it takes to close one down."

City officials have revoked permits of several bars along Newport Boulevard in recent years after residents complained they were disturbed by drunk patrons and noise late at night.

The ill-fated ordinance was designed to permit officials to get a measure of control over offending bars.

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