Morro Bay’s Buoy Bar asks for lighter limits

More than two years after the liquor license for the Buoy Bar was suspended for numerous violations, new owners of the Morro Bay business want to serve alcohol for an extra hour, play live music and end a security guard mandate.

Brian and Nancy Rozario, owners of the bar at 2940 Main St., bought the business in August 2008, about a year after it had its license revoked temporarily.

In June 2007, after a two-month investigation with local police, state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control officials suspended the bar’s license after finding alleged drug use on the premises, a bartender working under the influence of drugs and minors who had been allowed to enter and remain at the establishment.

Now some neighbors and city officials say the bar has changed considerably and are supporting lifting the restrictions.

The bar has had a history of problems, including a high number of calls to authorities for noise complaints, fights and disorderly patrons, according to police.

While negotiating the purchase of the bar, the Rozarios agreed to a trio of conditions on the license that required them to serve alcohol only from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. — instead of the 2 a.m. normally allowed by state law — to eliminate dancing and to have a licensed security guard on week nights from 9 p.m. to closing time.

Now the Rozarios are asking that they be able to serve until 2 a.m., play live music with acoustic instruments with minor amplification and eliminate the security guard requirement.

Police say they’ve seen a reduction in calls for service during the past year compared to previous years.

“Rozario has done a great job with the bar and changing the kind of atmosphere and culture that were there,” police Cmdr. Tim Olivas said. “We’re appreciative of him taking actions and the work he has done with it.”

Between Sept. 1, 2008, and Sept. 29, 2009, there were 11 disturbance incidents reported at the bar, according to data from the city. Of those, only one was called in by a nearby resident complaining of a noisy crowd.

Kelly Rae, a bar manager, said the Rozarios’ request to have the restrictions lifted is meant to reduce expenses.

The bar pays about $1,500 each month for a security guard, she said. The bar would still provide a doorman on the weekends, which is typically the busiest time, she said.

Johnny Gunn, who lives on Alder Avenue — which is adjacent to the small tavern — said the place has changed a lot since the Rozarios took over.

“I’ve only been in there once since the new guy took over, and I noticed a different atmosphere,” Gunn said. “Previously when I went in, there would be a few unsavory-looking people. It has changed considerably.”

Gunn, who has lived on Alder for 11 years and drives by the bar every day when he leaves his home, supports the Rozarios’ request, but noted that neighbors should also be aware of what’s near their homes.

“I find it interesting that people move into a place without looking over their shoulder,” he said.

The City Council approved a letter to state regulators Oct. 12 supporting the Rozarios’ request to have the restrictions lifted.

Leslie Pond, a district administrator for the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, said the agency looks for objections when making its decision.

In this case, it would look for objections by the Police Department or anyone who might be directly affected by proposed changes to the permit.

“The conditions were imposed to address police problems when the new owners took over,” Pond said.

Unless someone else raises concerns, regulators will probably move forward on the request, Pond indicated.