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Temporary Ban on Liquor Licenses Rejected

Calling it too restrictive, City Council members this week rejected a proposal that would have banned many new liquor licenses temporarily.

Council members agreed that irresponsible behavior by stores and bars that serve to minors and overserve drinkers of legal age is a drain on police resources and a threat to public safety. But denying potential operators permits while problems are ironed out with troublemakers is unfair, officials said.

“The crux of the problem is really the operator,” Councilman Gary Monahan said. “A couple of bad apples are making the whole industry look bad.”

Also, the proposed one-year ban would be ineffective if the state Alcoholic Beverage Control, which issues liquor licenses, chose to ignore it.

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Beverage control officials make note of municipal and police license protests but have autonomy. Costa Mesa has lost recent fights to persuade the agency to deny permit transfers for liquor stores and bars.

The number of alcohol permits citywide--not including temporary licenses for caterers--is down from 326 in 1989 to 284 in 1997. About half belong to restaurants. That was a factor in the council’s decision to drop the proposed moratorium, which might discourage upscale restaurants from opening.

Conditional use permits will continue to be issued by the council and Planning Commission on a case-by-case basis, and greater scrutiny will be paid to all applications, officials said.


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