Rules for new bars approved by SLO City Council

The San Luis Obispo City Council, after more than a month of debate, approved 4-0 a new set of rules for businesses selling alcohol.

Councilman Dan Carpenter recused himself from the discussion because he owns commercial property near many of the impacted businesses downtown.

The regulations, crafted by San Luis Obispo officials in an attempt to curb nuisances caused by excessive drinking downtown, will require new bars, nightclubs and restaurants serving alcohol after 11 p.m. to have a manager on-site when entertainment is performed, install a video surveillance system at all entrances and exits, and provide training for employees on responsible serving practices, among other requirements.

The new rules, which will take effect 30 days after the City Council approves the second reading, will be attached to a conditional-use permit for all new businesses that sell alcohol.

The City Council had previously disagreed on whether existing businesses would be held to the new standards.

As approved by the council Tuesday night, existing businesses will not be required to obtain the new permit but will be monitored under an ordinance that could trigger the new standards if they do not operate responsibly.

That review process includes a nonmandatory meeting with the Downtown Association and public hearing before a city administrative officer empowered to impose restrictions on any business that fails to operate safely or curb nuisances such as litter, public urination and unruly behavior.

Any existing venue selling alcohol with repeated violations could lose its grandfathered status and be required to obtain the new conditional-use permit in order to continue operating.

In May, the council eliminated the Downtown Association from the peer review process, but it added the organization back in Tuesday after bar owners spoke out against it being removed at prior public hearings.

A conglomeration of downtown bar and restaurant owners formed the Safe Nightlife Association to address the city’s concerns about late-night activity downtown.

“It is the hope and desire of the Downtown Association that downtown become a safe, enjoyable, attractive commercial district for all persons at any hour of the day or night,” said Deborah Cash, executive director of the Downtown Association in a memo to the council.

The new rules stem from a 2009 study sought by the council that assessed the number of police responses in the city and showed a disproportionate number of such events at or near downtown liquor establishments.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.