Stricter laws for certain Huntington Beach bars and restaurants in the downtown area are on their way.
In a 6-1 vote, with Mayor Pro Tem Matthew Harper dissenting, the City Council voted to change city changed the regulations on downtown establishments to try to reduce alcohol-related crime in the area.
The approved changes to existing law were recommended by Police Chief Ken Small. New or existing businesses seeking a permit to serve alcohol must abide by these rules: admit no new customers beginning 30 minutes before closing, offer last call no later than 15 minutes before closing and serve only individual drinks after midnight.
It could take months for the new rules to take effect. Current establishments with alcohol permits may continue to follow the original rules.
The banning of alcohol sales from downtown convenience stores wasn't one of the recommendations adopted. Such a move is being considered by Planning and Building Department staff and would require public hearings before the Planning Commission, City Council and California Coastal Commission, according to a staff report.
Councilman Joe Carchio said the city needs to do something about the alcohol problem in the area and it's up to council members to foster change.
"Our primary goal has always been to enhance and improve public safety for our residents and visitors," Carchio said. "We have to let the folks in Huntington Beach know that this is a problem and we're up here to address that problem."
Harper said he doesn't like the idea of making the rules for downtown bars and restaurants because it would "block any venue like the Golden Bear from being able to open again in Huntington Beach."
Councilman Joe Shaw said there aren't any plans for another venue like the iconic nightclub that for decades hosted well-known musicians. He said Small's changes are "common sense precautions."
In other news, council members voted Monday to ask the city attorney to write up a resolution that would double the fines for alcohol-related crimes on certain occasions.
The resolution was proposed by Carchio and passed on a 6-1 vote with Harper dissenting. Carchio said the goal is to deter alcohol-related incidents on major holidays and during the U.S. Open of Surfing.
The major holidays included are New Year's Eve, St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo, the Fourth of July and Halloween.
"We all know that this is a serious problem and it lingers on," Carchio said. "It's about time we address this problem and address it head-on."