Faced with an option that could have resulted in a maximum two-year moratorium on new alcohol-serving businesses in the downtown core, the San Luis Obispo City Council seems to have gotten the back of local business owners, whom they say have been working to address alcohol-related trouble.
During an Aug. 20 study session and review of the city’s one-year update on its efforts to curb late-night criminal incidents involving alcohol, the council unanimously shot down the moratorium as one option on the table.
The council did, however, vote to defer the city staff’s findings to a task force working on the Land Use and Circulation Update, an important document that will have implications for future planning.
The moratorium was first proposed by a citizen group called Save Our Downtown.
The decision was the latest in a series of discussions dating back to 2009, when a city-funded study concluded that late-night law enforcement incidents had a direct correlation to downtown alcohol establishments.
The city currently has 63 businesses with licenses to dispense alcohol in the downtown core, the majority of which are restaurants. Chief among the concerns of the staff and residents are restaurants that “morph” into bars after 11 p.m.
SLOPD Cpt. Chris Staley reported to the council that a 24 percent increase in alcohol-related incidents over the last year isn’t necessarily attributable to worse drunken behavior; rather, the jump could be due to an increase in economic activity as well as changes in the department’s enforcement policies and better cooperation with business management and staff.
Downtown resident David Hannings told the council that drunken hooligans on his block at night have caused property damage and overall inconvenience.
“I don’t know what the bar owners can do about that, but it’s horrible,” he said.
Following public comment, Councilwoman Carlyn Christianson said that downtown has always been noisy, and a moratorium wouldn’t change that.
“Behavior is the real issue,” Councilman Dan Carpenter said. “It’s changed since I used to drink downtown. It’s changed where society glamorizes drinking but demonizes the behavior.”
The council directed staff to regularly return for an annual update on the situation and decide whether further action should be taken.