Mozambique to test extended hours

Mozambique restaurant got back the hour it lost less than a month ago, not by a time change, but by a council edict.

The City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to extend the hours of operation at the restaurant to midnight Sunday through Thursday this summer, reversing the May 18 decision to make the closing hour 11 p.m. The trial period is a sink-or-swim test for the restaurant owner.

"This is a test to see if Mozambique can be a good neighbor," said restaurant spokesman Marc Hines. "We want to prove we can do this."

Twenty-three supporters, including neighbors, patrons, North Laguna residents, local business people and the attorney for the neighbors, spoke in favor of giving Mozambique the opportunity to show it could control late-hour disturbances in the abutting residential areas.

Measures worked out by attorney Larry Nokes on behalf of neighbors to mitigate the extra hours of operation are already in place. They were submitted to the council at the May 18 meeting and approved., although the hour the measures mitigated was rescinded.

Approved measures:

*Mozambique will provide security patrols for the adjacent neighborhood Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights

*The restaurant will offer free valet parking Sunday through Thursday; charge $3 Friday and Saturday until 9 p.m.; and give free valet parking after 9 p.m.

*Mozambique will post signs to direct patrons to turn left out of the exit instead of turning right into the neighborhood.

*Mozambique will instruct all employees to park in the neighborhood with posted plaques or stickers on their vehicles to maintain and control the amount of noise in the neighborhood

*Mozambique will hold monthly meetings with neighbors to discuss how remedial measures are working and any issues they might have with them

*The parties agree that based on past and potential future impacts, a periodic objective review is appropriate. In this case, the end of September or first of October seems an appropriate time for review. If people in the neighborhood are going to be adversely affected, it will most likely manifest during the summer months. Ideally, the monthly meetings will go forward to allow real-time evaluation of problems. To the extent adjustments are not achievable; the issues may be addressed to the council at the review hearing

*Chairs and tables in the lounge area will not be moved in such a way to create a dance floor and the food service upstairs will be a full menu

*Every Monday morning Mozambique will have its workers clean the adjacent neighborhood of debris.

"Give them a chance to prove themselves or you will drive them out of business and I guarantee it will take two or three years to get someone else in there—and it will be a monastery," said Dennis Myers, an active participant in the council's Business Assistance Task Force.

Many of the restaurant supporters at the meeting said Mozambique had been one of the few places in town where late diners could get a real meal in attractive surroundings.

"We moved here from San Francisco five years ago," said Shawn Hubbler-Magnuson. "If we wanted to live in a town that rolled up the sidewalks at night, we could have moved to Mission Viejo."

One neighbor and two owners of property in the area spoke against the extended hour of operation.

"We live in a city where leaf blowers are banned, but we let music go until midnight or 1 a.m.," said an irate Jeff Kaplan.

The restaurant's conditional-use permit requires music to be shut off at 10 p.m.

However, property owner Katy Smiser said her tenants complain about the music.

"I don't understand whey they can stay open and have music," said Linda Albert, daughter of a property owner. "You just voted on this. Keep it that way."

The extended hours were first approved by the council on Jan. 22, with a review to be conducted in four months. Staff recommended allowing the restaurant to stay open until midnight at the review, held May 18.

The council voted 3 to 2 against the recommendation.

Mayor Elizabeth Pearson and Councilman Kelly Boyd opposed the restoration of the 11 p.m. closing time.

"With the economy the way it is, I think a lot of us are happy to still be in business," Boyd said. "We should continue [the extension] through the summer and review it in September."

Given the council's direction, staff recommended denying the proposal submitted for Tuesday's meeting, which contained no new information.

This time the council voted in favor of the proposed amendment to conditional-use permit.

Mayor Pro Tem Toni Iseman, who initiated the reduction in hours at the May 18 meeting, said she was willing to give the restaurant the summer to prove its self a good neighbor.

"But I ask you to let everyone know how important this test is," Iseman said.

Councilwoman Jane Egly was more ambivalent.

"I didn't know how I was going to vote until 16 seconds ago," Egly said. "I will support this with 'miffness.'"

Egly and Councilwoman Verna Rollinger both reported receiving unspecified threatening communications from Mozambique supporters.

Neither councilwoman appreciated it.

"It is not the way to gain support," Rollinger said. "I am concerned, but I will join my colleagues in approving a trial this summer.

"I hope you make it work, but I will take it [approval] back if you don't."

The conditional-use permit will be reviewed at the council's September meeting.

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