Tag Archives: bars

Surf City’s Stimulus Plan (Get Tourists Drunk) Captured on Film

By John Earl
Surf City Voice

Surf City’s now infamous reputation for drunk driving and rowdiness, most of it stemming from its bar infested downtown, is usually expressed in statistics and as a necessary side effect of the city’s plan to stimulate economic development through tourism.

An HBPD study released last year clearly implicated the high concentration of combined restaurant/bars in the downtown area as a major cause of the problem.

Huntington Beach has the highest number of DUIs for any California city in its population range, is ranked third for DUIs of any California city and is ranked seven in the state, regardless of population, for drunk driver collisions as of a year ago. Last year five people died in drunken driving crashes in the city.

Downtown late night scene
Police tend to a downtown visitor who seems to have had too much to drink. Photo courtesy of Paul Edward

“Drunk driving is clearly the most significant public safety problem we have in Huntington Beach,” HBPD Chief Kenneth Small told the City Council last January.

Mayor Joe Carchio recently gained headlines for “cracking down” on downtown bars. Critics say his plan is a good first step but much more needs to be done to deal with the problem.

At a recent meeting of the California Coastal Commission when the city was seeking permits under the Coastal Act for its revised Downtown Specific Plan, Councilmember Keith Bohr said that the downtown area was a victim of the city’s successful program to attract tourists to its 8.5 miles of beaches and to its downtown attractions.

“We’re a very popular area,” he told the commission. “We have lots of folks come and our police force does a great job of enforcing our DUI [laws], hence our numbers are higher than others probably because we take advantage of the grants and enforce that and it makes people comply with our laws.”

Even accepting Bohr’s unlikely scenario—that other California cities don’t also take advantage of grants and try their best to enforce DUI laws—for downtown area residents the problem with drunks goes beyond statistics and affects their quality of life.

Richardson Gray, a downtown resident, complained to the commission about drunks overrunning downtown and waking up residents while walking back to their cars after the 2 a.m. closing time for bars. Other residents have long complained about late-night wandering drunks having sex in their front yard bushes and urinating, defecating and fighting on their lawns, or recklessly driving through their streets at high speeds while drunk.

“We have to live with the headaches of too many drunks on our streets and crime in our neighborhood,” Gray complained.

Surf City tourist nearly passed out on the ground.
Surf City tourist looks skyward. Photo courtesy of Paul Edward

A recent late night tour of downtown Main Street conducted by the HBPD for members of the Huntington Beach Downtown Residents Association, Planning Commissioner Mark Bixby and Councilmembers Joe Shaw and Connie Boardman helped illustrate – literally – those headaches.

Photographer Paul Edward captured the essence of the problem with video and in 24 photographs taken in less than an hour on what Bixby described as a “slow night” starting at about 1:30 a.m. Some of Edward’s photographs are within this article. The entire batch and the video can be viewed at http://pauledward.smugmug.com/Street-Scenes/HBDRA/.

But Bixby’s tour notes help give the context for Edward’s photographic essay. “It was an eye-opening experience for me,” he wrote. In his own words, this is what he witnessed just before and after the final call for alcohol downtown:

  • Males fighting and being arrested, with one being taken away in an ambulance;
  • Females having a loud altercation on the verge of fighting;
  • People staggering around under the influence;
  • At least one establishment allowing people to finish their drinks after the posted closing time;
  • People making out in dark shadows;
  • A guy being arrested after passing out;
  • Code-required sidewalk clear passage area being used for entrance queuing at Sharkey’s/Killarney’s (sic);
  • Definite uptick in altercations at the 2 am witching hour;
  • An inebriated guy standing in the middle of Main throwing fist-fulls of hard candy into the ari landing with a scatter onto the asphalt and subsequently crunched with a “pop pop pop” as a police cruiser slowly drove by;
  • A guy helping his near-unconscious buddy into the DRIVER’S Seat (!) of their vehicle;
  • And all of this was on a relatively “slow” night.

Although tax revenues establish the fact that downtown Surf City’s bars and alcohol serving restaurants help bring in the money for their owners as well as the city, no study has been done yet to study the costs to taxpayers of the kind of law enforcement Bohr touts but that is—as Edward’s photos show—woefully inadequate, no matter how valiant, for the task. Perhaps even more important to the residents of downtown and the rest of the city is the human cost of the city’s habit of only measuring success in dollars and cents.

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Response to Mayor Carchio: Good first step, but more needs to be done about downtown

By Angela Rainsberger

Editor: Rainsberger is the director of Huntington Beach Neighbors.

Dear Mayor Carchio:

Thank you for the letter regarding your proposed solutions to reduce the DUI fatalities coming from the downtown establishments. I believe this is a step in the right direction to reduce the DUIs and I hope that we will see some meaningful reduction over time. I believe the key is to make certain that these voluntary suggestions become requirements of entertainment permits as they come up for renewal or as new EP are issued.

In addition for new restaurants it is important to find a way to add restrictions to the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to prevent restaurants from morphing into bars. I expect you will see far less protests and activism from citizen groups in the downtown if we can insure that a restaurant stays a restaurant.

There are other cities in Orange County that have areas of heavy concentration of establishments serving alcohol who have found ways to manage the consumption to reduce the risks to life and quality of life. I would encourage you to meet with the city staff of Fullerton who crafted their successful ordinances and policies to understand what has worked for them.

In addition to your bulleted suggestions, I would add the following requirements:

  • No drink specials should be sold after midnight. This would include redemption of coupons such as the ones being sold on Groupon for two times the value of anything purchased. A managed decrease in the volume of alcohol consumed after midnight will decrease the level of intoxication at 2 am.
  • Maintain a full listing of establishments with the details of their entertainment permit restrictions, allowances, occupancies, and closing times to be used as a planning tool and reviewed in total, before any new establishment or any entertainment permit renewals are approved. Adjust closing times to stagger them as entertainment permits come up for renewal. This will reduce the 2 am flood of intoxicated drivers into the streets, by batching them in smaller more manageable groups, that the police will better be able to control.
  • Work with BID to increase the number of cabs available at night; as a cab shortage is a current problem. Taxi vouchers add no value if one must wait for an hour in a taxi queue.
  • Drinks need to be served to the person who will be consuming the drink. Currently there are establishments where drinks for large groups can be ordered by a single person at the bar and then carried back to a group. This prevents the servers from being able to apply the RBS/TIPS training and ABC max drink limitation or to monitor the ratio of drink per person. Require that the serve can verify that drinks are being sold are at the 1:1 ratio per order.
  • Require restaurants to clearly post occupancy permits for each area of their establishments (sidewalk patios, back patios, inside dining room and balconies) so that the police can clearly see when the occupancy of a given area has been exceeded. Currently, many establishments are not posting their patio max occupancy signs and in the evening hours are clearing tables and chairs off the patios and converting the patios to standing room areas with significantly more people than allowed. By posting these signs clearly the police will be able to quickly identify when occupancies have been exceeded.
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EXCLUSIVE: Bill Clinton Visits Downtown Surf City

By John Earl
Surf City Voice

Former United States of America president Bill Clinton was in town yesterday at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on PCH for a meeting of unknown content and purpose. Clinton was spotted by the hotel’s hard working staff—one of whom confided in the Voice—as he walked by in the lobby. Clinton exchanged greetings with the workers by mutual hand waving. It is not known at this time if the former two-time (and two-timing) president spent the night at the hotel or what room he would have slept in if he actually did spend the night, but it probably would have been the presidential suite. Nor is it known which nearby downtown restaurant/bar the former president went to, if indeed he did go to a downtown restaurant/bar (this writer’s guess is that he would have gone to Sharkee’s and the cup cake store, but I’m not sure in what order) or if he walked on the pier or if he just skipped the downtown altogether and went to Newport Beach. Nor is it known if Clinton went for a walk on the beach or went surfing along the side of the pier—or if he did go surfing by the pier if he by chance bumped into Dana Dude and if they got into a fight after that happened, that is, if it did happen. The Voice will continue to keep its readers updated as new information flows in, but about all that we can confirm at this time is that former president Bill Clinton did indeed appear at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Photo: Stolen from Orange Juice blog which probably stole it from somewhere else.

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