Tuesday, July 29, 2008

City Council: No dancing at Bricks Cafe


Dancing is generally good, many members of the Santa Barbara City Council said yesterday, but just not at Bricks Café at 509 State St., which had its application for a dance permit denied.
The council’s unanimous decision fell in line with an April 24 dance permit denial by the Fire and Police Commission.

In a staff presentation, Fire Capt. Robert Lowry told the council that since Bricks Café owner Wallace Ronchietto filed for a dance permit in February, officials have witnessed people illegally dancing at Bricks three times — a fact that seemed to weigh heavily in the council’s decision to deny Ronchietto’s appeal for a permit.
Councilman Dale Francisco said he’s always reluctant to overturn a ruling by a commission, and in the face of continuous violations on the part of Bricks Café, was even less inclined to do so in this situation.
“I can’t think of a better reason for denying a permit,” he said. “It’s pretty clear to me [the commission] made the right decision. This is almost black-and-white.”
Further compounding the case for denying the appeal was the already large number of dance permits in the 500 block of State Street, which stands at five. Citywide, 28 dance permits have been granted, 24 of which are in the entertainment district, which runs from Sola Street to the waterfront, and Chapala Street to Santa Barbara Street.
On top of the concentration of dance permits on lower State Street, are crime statistics that indicate 32 percent of the city’s criminal offenses between the hours of 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. occur in the entertainment district, and 49 percent of all alcohol related offenses occur there as well. This area also accounts for 36 percent of all police department arrests.
Some residents and business owners in the entertainment district opposed to any new dance permits in the area say their opposition doesn’t have to do with dancing, but more about the crime and drunkenness that accompanies it.
“This is not about dancing,” said Tamara Erickson, general manager of Hotel Santa Barbara, which is located at 533 State St. Erickson went on to say Ronchietto claims to want to attract more people to his establishment with the dance permit, but people don’t pay to dance, they pay to drink.
“He wants them to come in and drink alcohol,” she said. “Granting even a limited night club permit would impact our saturated neighborhood.”
Also of interest to the council were a series of conditions placed by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control on Bricks’ liquor license. Two of these conditions state Bricks is not allowed to play any amplified music, and live music is limited to unamplified quartets of musicians.
Ronchietto appealed these conditions earlier this year to the ABC, and city staff was notified yesterday afternoon the request had been denied.
Mayor Marty Blum said she felt it was appropriate for the council to not contradict the ABC, especially since the city has attempted to build a good relationship with the agency in regards to their granting of liquor licenses in the downtown area.
Blum also said ongoing violations at Bricks are troubling to her.
“You have to come into court with clean hands and that’s not what’s happening here,” the mayor said. “There were some violations of the conditions and that’s not good.”
Councilman Das Williams said he was in favor of approving a “type 2” dance permit, which among other concessions, would allow Bricks to have dancing three nights per week with unamplified music.
Williams pointed out the Fire and Police Commission considered such an option, but the vote was deadlocked at 2-2, with one commissioner absent. In the end, the commission voted 3-1 to deny the dance permit all together.
Councilmember’s Grant House and Helene Schneider also said they would consider supporting an amended dance permit that would allow dancing on certain nights.
But Councilwoman Iya Falcone said Bricks wasn’t requesting an amended dance permit. As a result, she argued the appeal should be denied and in the meantime, Ronchietto can file for such a permit, which is allowed under a recently approved city ordinance.
However, it’s unclear if Ronchietto would even be interested in anything less than a full-blown nightclub permit, since he said he planned to appeal the ABC ruling and seek permission to play amplified music. If Ronchietto won such an appeal, it would fly in the face of the amended dance permit, which wouldn’t allow such music. Messages left for Ronchietto weren’t immediately returned to the Daily Sound.
During the hearing, he told the council he had no plans to encourage excessive drinking or drug use, and reminded them he has owned and operated Café Buenos Aires at 1316 State St. for 16 years without any citations or complaints.
“People like to dance,” he said. “We’ve been doing it for a few thousand years. We need places to do it.”


Anonymous said...

This is such crap. What is this? Nazi Germany? How can City Hall tell people when and where they can dance? Hitler tried and Swing dancing blew up in his face. Remember what happened in Elmore City, Oklahoma*? Now Marty Blum thinks she can limit it? Why is this community not more upset about this blatant power trip. Wow, maybe Travis Factswrong is right, Marty should resign.

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elmore_City

Anonymous said...

"...officials have witnessed people illegally dancing at Bricks three times — a fact that seemed to weigh heavily in the council’s decision to deny Ronchietto’s appeal for a permit..."

This is too funny (and sad).
I'd thought seeing people dancing "illegally" should be more reason for granting a dance permit. Obviously, because eh... people want to DANCE. Does it make sense to outlaw eating because you see someone eating?
Laws are created for the interests of the people. Not the other way around.