New bars and restaurants in downtown San Luis Obispo will face additional regulations, following the San Luis Obispo City Council approval of new use permits in June.
The use permits will require that, among other things, new establishments serving alcohol have a manager on site after 11 p.m., provide extra training to staff serving alcohol and install surveillance cameras on entrances and exits. The regulations are an attempt by the city to reduce alcohol-related incidents at night as well as make city nightlife more welcoming, council member John Ashbaugh said. He said he didn’t think the new regulations would inhibit downtown attendance though.
“In the end what we’re going to see is we’re going to have just as many people coming downtown, probably more,” Ashbaugh said.
In addition to special permits for new businesses, existing businesses could face regulations if they are found to be disruptive, Ashbaugh said.
Bars and restaurants in downtown San Luis Obispo are currently allowed to operate under their old use permits with a “deemed approved” status. Establishments where police frequently find intoxicated and disruptive patrons could face a review of their old use permit though, Ashbaugh said.
“We’re really concentrating on an area where law enforcement has been an issue, or is going to become an issue,” Ashbaugh said.
And most of those issues occur after 11 p.m., San Luis Obispo Police Department (SLOPD) captain Chris Staley said.
The city council worked with SLOPD to determine when and where most alcohol-related problems were occurring to craft the regulations, Staley said. SLOPD’s information on crime helped to determine the guidelines for new bars and restaurants.
“If they want to serve alcohol after 11 p.m. — and that’s when we have most of our problems — we have to have a use permit,” Staley said.
Even with general rules, every use permit will be unique and individually reviewed by the city, Staley said.
The city will take into account the type of customers each business will attract, as well as their plans for events, entertainment and other features, Staley said.
SLOPD was not the only group consulted in the process, though. During the past year, the City Council has also been working with bars and restaurant owners downtown, through the San Luis Obispo Safe Nightlife Association, a coalition of bar and restaurant owners who united to curb alcohol-related incidents on their own.
The Safe Nightlife Association has already had an impact on problems downtown, and SLOPD has seen it, Staley said.
“They’ve actually started addressing the problems proactively,” Staley said.
The Safe Nightlife Association has done this in part by providing porta-potties for large events such as St. Patrick’s Day and implementing the “One 86, All 86” policy, which ensures that extremely intoxicated patrons are banned from all downtown establishments, Safe Nightlife Association coordinator Steve Tolley said.
Though all of the bugs are still being worked out in the “One 86, All 86” system, the policy has already started to curb out-of-control behavior, Tolley said.
“It’d be hard to really measure, quantify it, but it’s working,” Tolley said.
Now, the downtown establishments serving alcohol face newer regulations, in addition to their own efforts, but the new rules are not a problem, Tolley said. Instead, these regulations help define concrete ways for establishments to minimize alcohol-related incidents, Tolley said.
“What it did is lay out more clear guidelines, what the bar owners’ and restaurant owners’ responsibilities are,” Tolley said.
The Safe Nightlife Association also had input on the new use permits, after initially being shut out of the approval process. After some protest, the City Council took into account the bar and restaurant owners’ opinions, and the two groups reached an agreement, Tolley said.
There is no bad blood between the city and downtown businesses, because both are working toward the same goal, Tolley said.
“It’s a good relationship and there are no hard feelings,” Tolley said.
Ashbaugh said he agreed the relationship between bars, restaurants and the city is a valuable collaboration.
“If there are problems, we always welcome the help of more responsible bar owners,” Ashbaugh said. “We want to be partners.”