Downtown restaurant wants alcohol permit

A downtown hamburger joint wants a permit to sell beer and wine but wants to keep its 2 a.m. closing time — a conflict with a City Council resolution put in place to curb alcohol-related problems in the downtown bar scene.

Bomburger Restaurant, 200 Main St., petitioned the Planning Commission for a conditional use permit to sell beer and wine in its restaurant and outdoor dining area.

The restaurant, which serves burgers, fries and onion rings, is expanding its menu and wants to introduce alcohol with the change, according to the restaurant's permit application.

The burger joint proposed maintaining its 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. hours of operation, but will stop all alcohol sales at 10 p.m.

"We believe that these changes will help us bolster sales and stay competitive in the busy downtown area," Bomburger officials wrote in the application.

The hours, though, conflict with the resolution approved in January 2010 to restrict the uses of alcohol and entertainment permits. The first item in the resolution specifically restricts alcohol-selling establishments from staying open past midnight.

Mayor Joe Carchio said when he voted for the resolution last year, his main concern was the alcohol problems downtown, not businesses staying open late.

"We weren't looking to curtail anyone's business," he said.

Carchio hasn't seen the permit proposal, which would only go to the council if appealed, and couldn't speak to whether the proposed deviation of hours still upheld the spirit of the resolution.

Kim Kramer, the spokesman of the Huntington Beach Downtown Residents Assn., asked the commission to honor the resolution, according to a letter to the commission.

"This summer you will see a bunch of kids hanging out [un]til 10 p.m. at Bomburger and no one will be eating food; just drinking beer and getting ready to party," Kramer wrote.

Bomburger's application states that there is no conflict with the resolution because alcohol sales will stop at 10 p.m.

Police Chief Ken Small said at the commission study session Tuesday it is a complicated situation in that it violates the resolution, but also gives the downtown drinkers a place to put some food in their stomachs before driving home.

"For us, having that place where they can stop and get a hamburger without drinking before leaving Huntington Beach is a good thing," he said.

Small said he will send a memorandum stating the Police Department does not object to the later hours as long as the restaurant stops serving alcohol at 10 p.m.

City staff has yet to make its recommendation, which is expected to come out with the staff report late next week.

The commission has the authority to modify the conditions set forth in the resolution, said Tess Nguyen, associate planner.

This is only the second project to come forward after the resolution was passed and the first to pose a conflict, Small said. The first project was the closed Luggatti's Restaurant, which was given the go-ahead to reopen.

The issue is expected to go to a public hearing before the commission Jan. 25.

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