NEWPORT BEACH — Pizzeria Mozza, celebrity chef Mario Batali’s new restaurant at 800 West Coast Highway, may lose its permit to serve liquor.
A planning commissioner appealed a decision to grant the permit, and the commission will hear the issue next week. But at least one City Council member indicated that she would push to preserve the permit in order to encourage new businesses.
The appeal cites concerns that the restaurant’s full-service bar will lead to noisy customers, who will disturb residents on the bluff above.
“This [restaurant] requires review by the Planning Commission to ensure that residents and others in the community have an opportunity to present their comments and concerns to the city and its decision makers,” Commissioner Robert Hawkins wrote in his appeal.
Mozza, a fine-dining Italian eatery, opened last month after much anticipation among foodie devotees. It was reportedly delayed as the owners secured their liquor license. Another of the restaurant’s required approvals was from the city — a permit to have a full bar, instead of just beer and wine.
Initially, a city administrator granted the permit, and said that the restaurant is compatible with surrounding land uses. That process didn’t require the full review of the Planning Commission or the City Council.
Hawkins appealed, saying that the zoning administrator’s findings were unsubstantiated.
While businesses are on either side of the restaurant, homes line the bluff above. Some of those residents on Kings Road complained recently about Mariner’s Pointe, a proposed commercial development with restaurants, but the City Council ultimately approved that project.
Councilwoman Leslie Daigle said at Tuesday’s meeting that she supported Mozza, and indicated that she would seek to overturn a Planning Commission decision if it revoked the liquor permit.
“Here’s a business that creates jobs, and we want them to flourish. We want them to thrive, and not create bureaucratic delays,” Daigle said.
Mozza was created by Batali, fellow chef Nancy Silverton and restaurateur Joe Bastianich. Newport Beach is the pizzeria’s third location; the others are in Los Angeles and Singapore.
The Planning Commission will hear the matter October 20.