Mayor Pro Tem Toni Iseman and City Councilman Kelly Boyd will chair a meeting at 2 p.m. today at Mozambique to discuss ways to resolve complaints from the restaurant’s Woods Cove neighbors.
The council voted 3 to 2 Tuesday to allow the extended hours requested by the restaurant owner and vehemently opposed by some of the neighbors to continue until December while discussions are underway.
“We have to fix this,” Mayor Pro Tem Iseman said.
One solution proposed is resident-only parking. The theory being that if parking is restricted to residents, late night revelers won’t be wandering around the neighborhood to find their cars.
“But this is not about parking,” Iseman said. “It is about noise.”
The formation of the committee came at the conclusion of an-hour-and-25-minute review of the restaurant’s conditional use permit, which permits the restaurant to be open from 8 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
City staff said no significant violations of the permit warranted more restrictive hours. Police reported only four phone calls related to the address of restaurant, but concluded none appeared to be related to the bar or the music, which is a significant component of the restaurant’s popularity.
However, 39 people signed a petition asking the council to cut the hours back, enforce restrictions that prohibit sectioning the building for separate operations, removal of tables and chairs in the bar to make room for dancing and concert goers and to rescind approval of a cover charge.
Ten people in the audience spoke against the extended hours and activities they said destroys the tranquility of the neighborhood.
“You cannot mitigate the impacts,” said Jeffrey Kaplan, who submitted the petition.
Mallory McCamant said the neighbors had tried to reach a solution with the restaurant representatives, but the outcome was not what anyone hoped for, in spite of everyone’s best efforts.
“There are activities that just don’t belong in a neighborhood,” she said.
Woods Cove resident John Ferrante said the neighbors have been made the bad guys
“It is amazing what free food and drinks will do,” Ferrante said. “He [restaurant owner Ivan Spiers] is going to get what he wants and screw us. You took this from the Planning Commission and shoved it down our throats.”
The council amended the hours approved by the commission on a trial basis, with periodic reviews. Nineteen people, including Spiers, supported the current hours and activities.
Spiers said his customers had no need to park in the neighborhood because his valet parking has 169 spaces at their disposal. He also has hired security guards to prevent disturbances.
Laguna Beach businessman and former Woods Cove resident Mark Christy compared Mozambique to Tortilla Flats, the previous restaurant on the site, known for its rowdy Taco Tuesdays.
“My friends and my ex-wife will tell me there is a night and day difference between Tortilla Flats and Mozambique,” Christy said. “Mozambique may be imperfect, but it is a class act.”
Resident Christian Macke said he was surprised to see more people at the hearing than at the neighborhood meetings Mozambique held to resolve issues and he derided the claim that the restaurant is a nightclub.
“I’m young and if I want to go a nightclub, it’s not Mozambique,” Macke said. “The music is great, I wouldn’t consider it a nightclub.”
However Councilwomen Verna Rollinger and Jane Egly said the operation, regardless of what it is called or how highly regarded the menu or the owner, is a nightclub, and the location simply is wrong.
They both voted against the formation of the committee.
“I had been there many times, but I just discovered two different businesses,” Egly said. “I went in a door I had never noticed before and was asked for 10 bucks.”
Inside she said she found a room full of at least 100 people, drinking and dancing. There were no chairs. An adjacent room had tables.
“My question is where do the people go when they are done drinking and dancing,” Egly said. “We could put a gazillion conditions on [the operation], but you can’t control it.”
Rollinger said her recent experience at Mozambique was similar to Egly’s and opined the operation had to change.
Mayor Elizabeth Pearson appointed Iseman and Boyd to the subcommittee committee to work with the neighbors and Spiers to eliminate rowdiness on the streets surrounding the restaurant. The neighbors were not asked if resident-only parking zones, which would affect employees of all nearby businesses, would satisfy them.
The committee will report back to the council at the first meeting in December.