Huntington Beach

Later closings for some downtown bars?

MAIN STREET in downtown Huntington Beach (Flickr/Dan Lund).

By Jim Tortolano

Bartenders and drinkers may be getting longer hours in downtown Huntington Beach. The city council on Monday night approved a proposal that could result in allowing more restaurants and bars serving alcohol to stay open later.

On a 5-1-1 vote – with Councilwoman Jill Hardy opposed and Councilman William O’Connell recusing himself – the council voted in favor of directing city staff to work with the city attorney to “explore legal issues” regarding possible modification of a 2013 council resolution requiring that new eating and drinking establishments close at midnight.

“We’re just trying to see what we can do to level the playing field downtown,” said Councilman Mike Posey. The current rules have some businesses closing at midnight and others operating until 2 a.m.

Councilman Erik Petersen added that he wanted the study to beef up enforcement of rules governing bars and pubs in the Main Street area. “We want to reward responsible people and see that people who aren’t responsible are punished.”

The 2013 resolution came in response to incidents of rowdiness from late-drinking patrons, which sometimes required a heavy police response. Richard Plummer, during the public comments segment of the meeting, said that Huntington Beach now has 60 liquor licenses in the downtown area. That, he said, was the highest concentration of any area of comparable size in the state. He added that “the crime rate in downtown is eight to 10 times higher than other parts of the city.”

Hardy voted against the motion on the grounds that “It’s hard to support changes when I don’t know what they are.”

But most of the city council felt the current rules might be creating an unfair business environment for newcomers and discourages remodeling of existing buildings and the opening of new ones.

Also on Monday night, the council approved:

  • a three-year contract worth $6.21 million to purchase and modernize streetlights currently owned and operated by Southern California Edison;
  • a letter of support endorsing the proposed California Water Fix project backed by the Municipal Water District of Orange County.

FRANK PUCCILLI belts out “The Star Spangled Banner” at Monday’s Huntington Beach City Council meeting (OC Tribune photo).

The meeting began with a rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” by World War II veteran Frank Puccilli, 90, a 35-year resident of Huntington Beach.

The occasion was the 86th anniversary of “Banner” being adopted by Congress as the official national anthem. “It’s a wonderful song,” he said. “It’s about America’s greatness.”

Before he stepped up to the microphone, he cautioned: “I’m not saying I can sing this,” he said. “Most singers quit at 65 and I’m 90. And this is a very difficult song to sing.”

But he belted out a very creditable version, and that brought down a storm of applause.

The next council meeting is set for Monday, March 20.

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