In June of 2021, the City Council approved a new Restaurant Beverage Program that would help make it much easier and less costly for many new restaurants to obtain permits for the sale and on-site consumption of alcoholic beverages, by exempting them from the traditional Conditional Use Permit process. At the same time it passed the general program rules, however, the Council also voted to adopt recommendations from its Economic Development and Jobs Committee to create a separate program for restaurants in “alcohol sensitive use” areas, which already have a large concentration of liquor licenses.
This week, the City Council Planning and Land Use Management Committee approved the new draft of the Beverage Program ordinance, which now includes special provisions for those sensitive use areas.
According to city planner Lilian Rubio, who presented the new revisions to the PLUM committee on Tuesday, restaurants in the sensitive use areas designated by the City Council will still be able to apply to obtain liquor permits without a CUP process, but they will also have to meet more than 50 very specific provisions, including special requirements for security, noise , and compliance monitoring.
Unlike other restaurants participating in the Restaurant Beverage program (which already has a long list of qualifying factors), Rubio said those in sensitive use areas will also have to go through at least one public hearing (such as at a neighborhood council) for their applications, and alcohol sales will not be allowed to exceed 45% of the business’ total revenue. There will also be a one-year provisional approval period, during which members of the public can submit complaints through a designated portal, and if a restaurant receives more than five validated complaints during that provisional period, it will no longer be eligible for the program and would have to go through a more traditional CUP process to be allowed to sell alcoholic beverages.
Finally, restaurants in sensitive use areas will also be subject to two unannounced inspections by the Department of Building and Safety every five years, and if there are more than three violations resulting in orders to comply within any two-year period, the restaurant will be suspended from the program for five years and would have to apply for a traditional CUP.
With only a couple of clarifying questions, the PLUM Committee members spoke enthusiastically in support of the measure after Rubio’s presentation, with Councilmember Bob Blumenfield saying that it’s important to support the city’s restaurants, especially in light of the challenges they’ve faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. And “this is a great way to do that,” he said.
Councilmember Gil Cedillo commented that “in the economy of my district, small restaurants are very important, and this would be incredibly helpful for many of them.”
And Councilmember Monica Rodriguez said “it gives me a lot of faith in our ability to help support the very industry that has been so devastatingly impacted by the pandemic,” lauding this effort to “enable them to do what they do best, and that’s to bring our city together at the dinner table or the breakfast table.”
The committee members voted unanimously to approve the new plan, which will now go to the full City Council for a final vote.