After a lengthy public debate, the Newport Beach Planning Commission voted last week to approve the remodeling and expansion plans for Malarky's Irish Pub.
But commissioners added a restriction that might make it unfeasible, the bar's owner said.
After a series of motions, the commission voted to allow the expansion, but to limit the bar's occupancy between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m.
The time condition perplexed some of those involved in the debate, including the bar's owner, Mario Marovic. He said that he was considering appealing the decision because it could force him to kick out about 70 people at 11 p.m.
"This is a pretty serious operational constraint, and we'll have to determine if it's doable," he said.
The renovated bar on Newport Boulevard would have a new 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.
Today, Malarky's occupancy is limited to 91 people, and the project could make room for an additional 107 people for a total of 198, a city staff report said.
The ultimate occupancy would be determined by the city Building Department. Marovic would have to cap the occupancy at 120 between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m.
Commissioners listened to about 19 people speak in favor of the project, and about eight against it. Proponents say it will add some class to the worn, 35-year-old building. Opponents say that more patrons at the bar would cause more noise and other disturbances.
Any more people drinking on the Balboa Peninsula would be a problem for Craig Batley, president of the West Newport Beach Assn., which represents homeowners in the area.
He appreciated that the commissioners were trying to be "mindful of the fact that residents have a right to enjoy the residential atmosphere on the Peninsula," but was skeptical the compromise could work.
"In trying to please everybody, you please nobody," he said.
The lone dissenting commissioner, Robert Hawkins, pointed out that both the Police Department and planning staff members ultimately recommended against the expansion. He said that approving the occupancy restriction with a larger dining room and patio could create problems.
"It just doesn't make any sense," he said.