Why ABC Shouldn’t Grant A Liquor License Until The Garage Doors Are Sealed

UPDATE

Since I posted this page last night, new information has come to light.

CA Alcoholic Beverage Control Form 247 (click to download) says:

Rule 61.4, Chapter 1, Title 4, California Code of Regulations states: No original issuance of a retail license or premises-to-premises transfer of a retail license shall be approved for premises at which either of the following conditions exist:
(a) The premises are located within 100 feet of a residence.

. . .

Notwithstanding the provisions of this rule, the department may issue an original retail license or transfer a retail license premises-to-premises where the applicant establishes the operation of the business would not interfere with the quiet enjoyment of the property by residents.

This means the restaurant is obligated to prove they will not disturb nearby homes before they can even be considered for a license. As it has already been shown repeatedly that noise from this garage disturbs neighbors inside their homes, this makes our case that the garage doors must remain fully closed much stronger.

Original post follows.

I haven’t written the letter to ABC yet, but I’ll post it on this page when I do.

Until then, here’s the whole writeup of reasons I am going to give them for why they shouldn’t grant the liquor license until the garage doors are permanently sealed:


  1. It’s a bad precedent to allow a bar, serving hard liquor, with the interior directly open to public street and surrounding homes. There is no other establishment with a license to serve hard liquor anywhere in the neighborhood that has any windows that open at all.

    Other than mandatory entrances and emergency exits, every single other nearby full-service bar is completely contained within a soundproof, fully enclosed indoor space. We only want this restaurant to do exactly as every other successful local restaurant does.

  2.  The presence of alcohol being served in a space open and exposed to the public on a quiet residential side street created an atmosphere of lawlessness and disorderliness, on the quietest residential side street in this neighborhood, which extended far beyond the bounds of that one property.

    Encouraged by the barroom atmosphere on the street, people drank from open alcohol containers, littered, gathered to smoke cigarettes or marijuana, and urinated in doorways, up and down the block. This behavior, widespread at the time, hadn’t been anywhere near as bad a problem before La Urbana started serving alcohol in an open air public-facing barroom next to our homes, and has not been a problem since they ceased operation.

  3. The interior of the garage space had a large sound system and large-screen tv, creating a heightened noise level during nighttime dance parties and daytime crowds of inebriated people shouting at ball games which were broadcast unimpeded out through the openings and into the surrounding neighborhood’s windows.

    There’s nothing to say they won’t be used again there. These large crowd-sized entertainment devices aren’t appropriate to use in an unsoundproofed, acoustically public space, especially sitting right on the border of the residential zone mere feet from R-zoned bedroom windows. These sorts of loud, large-scale crowd entertainment devices, which encourage people to be noisier, should always be required to only be used indoors in completely indoor enclosed spaces, and especially so when accompanied by hard liquor service. And most especially so when located directly adjacent to R-zoned residences.

  4. Simply requiring the licensee to keep the ambient noise below a certain level, while leaving the interior of the bar structurally openable to the public street, would not be enough, because it puts the continual and undeserved burden of policing the noise levels onto the neighbors. As long as the licensee still has the option of operating their barroom open to the street, it becomes the neighbors’ responsibility to have to stay on guard, police the noise level themselves, and filing complaints, over and over again, in an often vain attempt to bring enforcement.

    We found in the past that as long as the garage doors are capable of being reopened in any way, then whenever they are ordered to be quiet, they will comply for a short while, and then the problems gradually begin again and it falls again upon us, the neighbors, to start again from scratch with new complaints. The requirement for the noise potentially accompanying hard liquor service to be completely enclosed and indoors should be structural and permanent, not dependent on forcing the responsibility upon the neighbors to keep filing complaints to try to get somebody to do something about it on a per-incident basis.

  5. SF city codes require it. SF Planning code §221 says that in Commercial districts, Assembly or Entertainment nightlife uses are only permitted “when conducted within a completely enclosed building; provided, (1) that incidental noise is reasonably confined to the premises by adequate soundproofing or other device, and (2) that no portion of a building occupied by such use shall have any opening, other than fixed windows and exits required by law, within 50 feet of any R District.“These huge garage door openings are less than 5 feet from the R district – far less than the 50 feet specified in this ordinance. And that ordinance applies to Commercial zones, where noise rules are more tolerant than in Neighborhood Commercial districts like the Divisadero corridor.

    The current single-ply garage doors, even when fully closed, are not sufficient soundproofing to keep impede the interior noise of a full barroom from the surrounding homes. They must be sealed and reenforced with adequate soundproofing, in compliance with this ordinance.

  6. The problems created by even minor ongoing disruption audible inside the surrounding homes have been continually and unfairly minimized by almost everyone not directly affected, including the officials whose responsibility it is to prevent such problems and now that they have been recognized and documented repeatedly with neighbor complaints and city hearings, this license transfer presents an opportunity to stop ignoring them, address them now, and address them permanently.

    Remember the “Chinese water torture”? It’s just an occasional drop of water on the forehead. Who could ever complain about a drop of water? Anything, even something that is completely innocuous on the first, tenth, or hundredth time, can become genuine, banned-by-the-Geneva-Convention-style torture after enough exposure, and just because your limited exposure to it doesn’t bother you doesn’t make it any less so to those who must suffer it endlessly. That was the problem with the continual audible disruptions from La Urbana’s open-air garage bar to those of us who had to deal with it day after day, night after night. Reliably, officials who came to check on the situation said, “This doesn’t sound that bad to me”, then got to go home to their own homes, free of having to hear the constant irritant every single day of their lives thereafter.

    Having seen, and documented in official city agency hearings and complaints, the results of not giving sufficient attention to the effects on surrounding homes of leniency in this regard, ABC should include license restrictions ensuring that the garage not just should not but cannot be used in a way that alcohol-fueled behavior can impact the residents of the surrounding neighborhood.



Finally:
 I understand that this new restaurant owner wants to work with the neighbors and likely won’t cause the problems that the former restaurant in this location did. However, we presently have nothing in writing and no real assurances at all, and there is no reason the terms of his license should not work for both him and us when this protest asks no more than that the new licensee be required to serve his hard liquor in a completely enclosed, indoor space, exactly as every single other successful restaurant and bar serving hard liquor in this neighborhood already does.