Neighbors to protest Malarky's expansion plans

Malarky's Irish Pub, a 35-year-old watering hole on the Balboa Peninsula, is planning a major remodel and expansion.

That may be good news to its drinking denizens and Newport Beach business boosters, but some of the bar's neighbors aren't too pleased. They're organizing a protest ahead of Thursday's Newport Beach Planning Commission meeting.

"You already have a saturation of drinking establishments on the peninsula," said Craig Batley, president of the West Newport Beach Assn., which represents homeowners. "To have further concentration does not really add to the residential character of the neighborhood."

Malarky's owner, Mario Marovic, said the remodel to upgrade the property and increase occupancy — from 91 people to 198 — won't be a problem.

"We want to create a more comfortable restaurant experience," he said. "We're adding a substantial amount of improvements to the property, and I have an immense amount of support."

The project would add a 565-square-foot sit-down dining room, an enclosed patio on the north side of the building, and large signs on the front and sides of the building. The patio would close at 11 p.m.

Also, Marovic plans to enlarge the restrooms, which have been cramped and disheveled in the past, and to have an elaborate security plan to deal with crowds.

A few years ago, Marovic remodeled the Stag Bar, a rowdy pool bar by the Newport Pier, and turned it into the District. His plans to remodel Malarky's appear to be similar.

The revamped pub would serve an "upscale menu of traditional Irish cuisine," according to the application. Marovic said he is aiming for a level of dining like at the Cannery, which is considered nice, but not stuffy.

That doesn't sway Drew Wetherholt, who lives on 30th Street a few hundred feet from the pub.

He compiled a long list of reasons to oppose the remodel and e-mailed neighbors to drum up support.

"Often residents get to start their weekends cleaning-up puke, broken bottles and even condoms on the streets, sidewalks and even their front porches," he wrote.

According to the Newport Beach Police, the district that includes Malarky's and the bars near the Newport Pier is the most concentrated area for alcohol-serving establishments in the city, with one license for every 38 residents.

In 2010, there were 946 reported crimes there, compared to a citywide district average of 162 reported crimes. Associated with Malarky's were two alcohol-related arrests, including one DUI.

The Police Department recommended against the interior expansion, but in a letter to the Planning Commission said the patio would be OK, as long as it closed at 10 p.m. Because of the increased occupancy, the police predicted that the remodel would cause more noise and disturbances, and draw more police resources.

Marovic, who also owns the Landmark Steakhouse in Corona del Mar, has lined up the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce and about 15 other supporters for the project. Many of them live on the peninsula, according to their letters.

"This project will be a welcome enhancement to the area for years to come, adding additional sales tax," wrote chamber President Richard Luehrs. "Mr. Marovic has proven to be a responsible restaurant owner."

Malarky's is popular with younger, college-age partiers, and with a few devoted daytime drinkers.

The city planning staff recommended approval of the project, but with 67 conditions, like prohibiting drinking games.

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