The Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce wants restaurants to be able to sell liquor outside their premises more than the currently allowed four times a year.
The chamber has enlisted State Sen. Tom Harman to propose a bill, Senate Bill 1044, that would amend alcohol beverage control rules to permit the sales 14 times a year. The bill, sponsored by the Laguna Chamber, was approved unanimously Wednesday by the Governmental Organization Committee and forwarded on to the Appropriations Committee for further action.
The chamber wants the added alcohol sales to help boost the Third Thursday Forest Avenue Promenade, which began as a pilot program last year. During the events, the 200 block of Forest Avenue is closed to traffic from 5 to 9 p.m. to allow entertainment on the street and additional sidewalk dining.
“The Third Thursday Forest Avenue Promenade is an effort by the Laguna Beach Chamber to bolster the local economy,” said chamber Executive Director Rose Hancock. “Existing restaurants on the block are currently allowed only four permits per year for an event adjacent to their property, yet this was a six-month event in 2009. The restaurants simply want the ability to fully participate in this monthly event each time it takes place.”
Harman said that local police agencies will still have to approve the permits prior to the events.
“Many California communities sponsor summer festivals, shows or weekly downtown events,” he said. “Laguna Beach came to me because they want to give popular local restaurants and bars the ability to participate fully in their Third Thursday’s Forest Avenue Promenade.
“Community events like these draw nearby residents, attract pedestrian traffic to downtown areas and are just fun. Current law is inconsistent in how it treats different types of caterers or restaurants. In some cases it doesn’t allow these establishments to participate in multi-night events without waivers — that is what we are trying to correct.”
The chamber claims the events are highly successful, but some businesses on Forest Avenue complain that closing the street drives customers away because of reduced parking.
Others in Laguna Beach have proposed closing the 200 block of Forest Avenue to traffic permanently.
Mayor Elizabeth Pearson, who has spearheaded efforts to bolster the city’s economy, said she had not heard about the proposal, which has not been presented to the City Council.
“The chamber did not discuss this with the city,” Pearson said. “We are unaware of these efforts.”