Bar and restaurant owners aim to increase safety in downtown San Luis Obispo by making sure that unruly, drunken patrons get home safely — and not to other bars.
Concerns about over-intoxication, fights and other unfavorable behavior prompted the business owners to form a task force to combat the public perception that the downtown is rife with problems after hours.
The Safe Nightlife Association — which represents many of the bars and restaurants downtown — is launching its initial efforts this weekend with a public awareness campaign. Posters, reminding patrons to be safe and respectful, can be found throughout many of the downtown bars.
A new program called “One 86, All 86” is also being launched. Now, if a patron gets kicked out of a bar for rowdy behavior — known as being 86’d — that person’s photo is taken and circulated among the other bars so the individual can’t continue to drink downtown that night.
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Bill Hales, who owns six bars, including MoTav, The Library and the Frog and Peach, said that bar and restaurant owners want to be partners with the city to foster the downtown’s vitality.
In 2009, the San Luis Obispo City Council considered levying additional regulations on downtown bars after a $22,000 report by a Berkeley consultant showed a disproportionate number of police events near or at downtown liquor establishments compared to other areas of the city.
Bar and restaurant owners said they were being singled out.
“We felt that one more fee or tax was a little bit much,” Hales said. “So we focused our game plan and took a proactive and positive approach to addressing the concerns without the need for a new fee.”
The association is working with retired San Luis Obispo police Lt. Steve Tolley to address the issues.
Other efforts include the revival of a nighttime shuttle called Safe Rides, which drives people who have been drinking home at night for a fee Thursday through Saturday.
Many bars are partnering with Safe Rides by offering a discount on cover charges or other incentives for those using the shuttle.
The shuttle, Hales said, will help keep drunken revelers from traipsing through neighborhoods and disturbing residents, and hopefully, from urinating in public because they aren’t standing around waiting for a ride.
“We are all working together now,” Hales said.
Deborah Cash, executive director of the Downtown Association, said the ultimate goal is to make the city’s downtown a desirable place to be after typical business hours.
As it is, business slows from 6 p.m. until about 11 p.m., when it revives with bar-goers.
“These business owners are saying that they hear the concerns and they are dealing with them,” Cash said.