NEWPORT BEACH : Nightclub Foes Using Video to Make Case

Critics and supporters of the troubled Thunderbird club faced off at a final public hearing this week, with those who hope to see the restaurant and nightclub lose its license presenting a video they said showed the problems it has caused.

Police reports of public nuisances and continued complaints by neighbors prompted the city to conduct hearings on the operating permit for the club, which opened in November.

Gregg Mulholland and Dave Ariss, who co-own the club at 3505 Via Oporto, contended at Monday’s hearing that they have cleaned up the club’s act.


“We are not a perfect organization--I don’t think there is one out there--and I understand we do have some problems,” Mulholland said.

To comply with tighter guidelines issued by the City Council, primarily that the club emphasize food rather than alcohol sales, the owners changed the club format to revolve around comedy and magic and augmented its restaurant service, Mulholland said.

But opponents showed video footage of a raucous group of people drinking alcohol, smashing bottles and urinating in a parking lot adjacent to the club.

Mulholland contended that those shown in the Sept. 9 footage could not have been solely Thunderbird patrons because his club requires a strict dress code and caters to upscale patrons. Food providers, a parking control firm and the property managers of the Thunderbird have stated their support for the club.

Still, City Atty. Bob Burnham said, when the issue comes before the council Oct. 9., the Thunderbird faces an uphill battle to keep its license.

“There has been a significant increase in these activities since it opened,” he said. The Warehouse and Atlantis, both restaurant-nightclubs, are nearby, but neither have sparked complaints by neighbors, Burnham said.