Disney officials are asking the city to give them greater leeway in serving alcohol at its new 125-acre Grand Central Creative Campus, a move that has at least some residents concerned about the potential for increased noise and intoxicated drivers.
Adam Gilbert, director of corporate real estate for the Walt Disney Co., told Planning Hearing Officer Laura Stotler on Wednesday that Disney already hosts special events where alcohol is served without issues and that obtaining a blanket permit would help streamline the process.
Currently, he said, the company has to get a one-time permit through the state Department of Alcohol Beverage Control for each event, a process he termed as "cumbersome, time-consuming and requires state review and processing."
He stressed that the special events, celebrating, for instance, the launch of a video game, a theme park ride or a retirement, would not be open to the public, and Disney security would always be present.
Disney hosts about 35 special events a year, he said.
Aristo Street resident Loren Brown said the area is home to many children and filled with bicyclists and people walking their dogs. He fears the permit Disney is seeking will lead to more parties and more dangerous conditions.
"You know it's going to lead to people driving drunk," Brown said prior to the meeting. "And there's all kinds of kids who play in that area. They park in front of our houses, anyway. That's bad enough. But the main thing is drinking. I don't believe there should be any more drinking."
Disney spokeswoman Nidia Caceros said the point of requesting the city permit is not to hold more events, but to cut red tape. She also noted that, in addition to security, there are limits on how much is served.
"As you can imagine, Disney, as a family brand, places the utmost care into all that we do, most especially the safety of our employees and in this case of our neighboring communities," Caceros wrote in an email.
Another resident in the area, Jennifer Pinkerton, said her concern is mostly about parking.
"They speed, litter, make unsafe U-turns," she said. "We have to put up with those impacts during business hours. Now, by proposing to host meetings or parties where alcohol is served after hours, that just means that all those negative impacts are going to be extended into the evening hours."
But city officials note there have been no reports of excessive noise or problems associated with the events Disney now hosts.
Although she has made no decision, Stotler said by granting Disney the permit it seeks would give the city more oversight over Disney's special events.
"First of all, it gives us a say," Stotler said. "Right now, we don't know when those parties are going on because they don't come to us. They just go through ABC. This allows us to put some of our rules on [Disney] and we'll put them on notice that we have certain rules in addition to ABC."
Stotler said she would take the matter under consideration and make a decision within the next few weeks.