Downtown SLO bar owners to express concern over City Council report

Downtown bar owners and investors plan to register their concerns about any new regulations that may come out of a special discussion today before the San Luis Obispo City Council on the link between their establishments and police calls.

Daytime business owners also may appear with a slightly different take on the issue, as at least some may describe arriving to work in the morning to find vomit, urine and sometimes vandalism left at the doorstep from the night before.

Police Chief Deborah Linden is presenting a consultant’s $22,000 report to the council stating that bars — especially ones located downtown — use a disproportionate amount of police resources.

The council is being asked to receive the report and then direct Linden and her staff to work with bar owners, businesses and other community members who think they have a stake in the issue.

But bar owners are worried about some of the recommendations in the staff report that target them, including the possibility of the city levying some type of additional fee.

“I don’t understand what the fees will accomplish,” said Bill Hales, who controls Ash Management, a group of investors who own Mother’s Tavern, The Frog & Peach, Bull’s Tavern, Marti’s Grill and McCarthy’s. “What if there is still urine in alcoves and turned-over trash cans down the line? Will they levy bigger fees on us?”

Hales said that the recession has had a direct impact on the bars and restaurants that serve alcohol downtown, with customers often forgoing eating downtown now and just showing up around 11:30 p.m. for a few drinks.

He said the police complain a lot of their resources are being used downtown.

“Well, no kidding,” Hales said. “That’s where we are located, and that’s where the city’s General Plan dictates we are located.”

Kathi Main, co-owner with her husband of Kevin Main Jewelry, said that she believes the city has to work to better to identify the vision for downtown. She said that her company routinely has to clean sidewalks in front, even though what it sells doesn’t mess up a sidewalk.

“The city and the businesses have to invite people to come to downtown,” she said. “But it’s kind of like opening up your home. If your carpets are filthy and somebody threw up on the floor, your guests are not likely to want to visit that place again.”

Sean Faries owns the Native Lounge at the edge of Mission Plaza on Chorro Street. Before it, he owned the Mission Grill at the same location.

He said he was distressed to see that his own business was linked to 30 police events in 2008, only to find that the report indicates events in nearby Mission Plaza are included in that number.

He said he worries about the term the chief uses about restaurants “morphing” into bars. He said that restaurants that have a full license to sell all alcohol pay $150,000 to $200,000 to the state for that right, while restaurants that serve only wine and beer pay far less.

“There’s a huge investment involved, and I feel they have manipulated the whole term,” he said. “We are not only a restaurant.”