Downtown sizzle | April 20, 2012 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Cover Story - April 20, 2012

Downtown sizzle

Entertainment task force wants later hours, more attractions for revelers

by Jeb Bing

An 11-member task force is recommending that rules governing entertainment in Pleasanton's downtown be eased to encourage more sizzle and later night hours along the city's Main Street corridor.

Just how much sizzle and how late should alcoholic beverages be served is what's being debated by the Downtown Hospitality Guidelines Task Force. No one wants to return to the honky-tonk days of the 1960s and '70s when bars filled the downtown along with numerous Saturday night street fights. But no one wants to see the sidewalks rolled up at 10 p.m., which downtown critics say is happening now.

The task force was created by the Pleasanton City Council last October at the request of the Pleasanton Downtown Association, which long has been grappling with concerns that there's too little nightlife here and that rules allowing music, dancing and late night alcoholic beverages are too strict.

Its goal is to develop more lenient, uniform rules for downtown businesses that serve food, alcohol or simply want to feature live entertainment and music during business hours in their retail locations.

At a committee meeting of the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce last week, Laura Olson, the mother of two toddlers and the executive director of the Pleasanton Downtown Association, said she'd like to see more piano bars downtown where she and her husband could spend a quiet night out without the kids. At the same meeting, former Councilwoman Sharrell Michelotti recalled the more lively days of dancing on the tables, although she never said she was one of the dancers. Both agreed that what the entertainment committee is proposing are nighttime activities that will be less exotic than table dancing but more lively than a piano bar.

All at the Chamber meeting agreed that Pleasanton's downtown needs to be livelier, especially after 10 p.m. when most bars and restaurants quit serving alcohol unless they have conditional use permits issued by the city government. Those can be costly and require considerable time in gaining approval, including public hearings before the city Planning Commission and even the City Council if they're controversial. It took Mari Kennard six months before she was able to open Redcoats on St. John Street and she was still restricted to fewer late night hours than Barone's a block away.

In fact, Barone's, Redcoats, Main Street Brewery and Hap's are among the few that have permits to have live music and serve alcohol into the late night hours on Fridays and Saturdays. For those that don't, most close at 10 p.m., including many restaurants.

PDA President Mike Hosterman said he picked up his wife Jennifer (the mayor) from the airport a few nights ago and they passed through downtown looking for a late-night sandwich. They had to continue on to the TGIF restaurant farther north on Santa Rita Road to find a meal.

That's what the Downtown Entertainment task force wants to change. By allowing any business in the downtown corridor to serve alcohol and have live music or a DJ at least until 11 p.m. with no special conditional use permit required, Olson believes more restaurants would stay open later and attract more late night customers to downtown Pleasanton.

Live or electric amplified music is a concern of some whose homes are on downtown side streets or along the east side of First Street. Although they've learned to handle the crowds, neighborhood parking and the loud noise during the summertime's Friday night Concerts in the Park, they don't want more. A restaurant in the old railroad station building at Neal and First streets closed several years ago when it was ordered to move its patio DJ and dances inside, even on hot summer nights.

The same neighbors successfully blocked the city's consideration of an outdoor skating rink during the winter months at First and Angela streets because of concerns over noise and parking in their neighborhood.

Noise levels at 60 dBA (decibels) have been allowed in the downtown area without special use permits. But to accommodate louder late night live and amplified dance music, the task force is suggesting raising those levels to 78 dBAs between 8 a.m. and 10 or 11 p.m. in the Main Street Core zone, and to 70 dBAs from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Transition zone. Non-amplified music would be permitted at all hours until 11 p.m. anywhere in the core downtown area.

Nor are all the objections to changes in the downtown district entertainment policies limited to residents. Joe Barone was surprised when he found the committee's "Core Zone" for permit-free late night entertainment excluded his restaurant although Handle's and the Rose Hotel next door were in that zone.

"If someone had told us that our restaurant would be in a transitional zone, we wouldn't be here," Joe Barone told a meeting of the Downtown Hospitality Guidelines task force earlier this month, with his wife Maricela at his side. "Are we being punished because we didn't buy Main Street properties?"

Later, the task force redrew the lines to include the Barone's restaurant and home in Core zone.

As it is now, properties along Peters Avenue and those fronting on Ray, Spring and First streets in the downtown district will be in the Transition zone, where businesses of all types will still be required to seek conditional use permits for any entertainment activities after 10 p.m.

"We're not trying to be like Livermore or Walnut Creek," Olson told the Chamber meeting. "We want to build downtown Pleasanton as an entertainment destination by enhancing the hospitality within our commercial district."

The Downtown Hospitality Guidelines task force plan, which is still a work in progress with at least three more discussion sessions yet to come, will eventually go to the city Planning Commission and then the City Council for approval as a Downtown Specific Plan amendment. Both Olson of the PDA and Pamela Ott, the city's economic development director who also directs the task force meetings, see the multi-faceted guidelines as a plan to be implemented over the next five years.

"Our vision concepts include increasing vitality in a manner compatible with downtown residents and with safety," Ott said.

She said that the preliminary drafts that are updated after each meeting with a host of blue lines and yellow highlighted lines marking the suggested changes could be in final form by June.

"This plan calls for more opportunities for nightlife that's reflective of the composition of the community, a place where authenticity and historic character are retained, with core service establishments for residents and an inviting business mix with more to do, and more choices of where to go at night," Ott said.

"Let me add, however, these concepts are still just concepts and have not been formally recommended by the task force," Ott explained. "I expect more discussion at the (next) meeting on all the key elements of the guidelines and so some of the standards could change."

The most recent version of the task force document will be considered at the group's next meeting, starting at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, May 3, in the city's Operations Service Center, 3333 Busch Road. The meetings are open to the public and comments are welcome.


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Posted by tim
a resident of Del Prado
on Apr 22, 2012 at 8:22 am

"This plan calls for more opportunities for nightlife that's reflective of the composition of the community, a place where authenticity and historic character are retained, with core service establishments "

let me translate, ok you can serve wine past 10pm but dont have to much fun. and wrap it up by 11;30

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Posted by Jim Freeman
a resident of another community
on Apr 22, 2012 at 8:31 am

How much is this going to cost us in police overtime? How much revenue will be lost by reducing conditional permit fees? How much will taxes be raised to pay for the increased arrests and property damage from fighting? How much will the union bosses take off the top? What about paying for extended clean-up crews?

City Council, haven't you got the message yet? I am TAXED ENOUGH ALREADY!!

Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown
on Apr 22, 2012 at 9:43 am

Before allowing outdoor music, or ANY amplified music, ask the people downwind of Barone's how they like listening to the loud music at night. There is a tunnel effect and the music is often almost unbearable. Allowing bars to serve after 10PM is fine, it would be nice to leave an event at the Firehouse and be able to get a glass of wine or cup of coffee. Remember that jerk who owned the cigar store and put in outdoor speakers? He played music all day and often "forgot" to turn it off when he left at night. People on Second Street and beyond could hear every word of it and he was never cited. If you have decible limits it is important to cite anyone who exceeds them.
This article points to residents of First Street as if they should allow limitless noise and parking problems simply because they live there. How would you like to come home on a concert night and find someone parked in your driveway? Chairs set up on your lawn? Someone sitting on your porch because no one seemed to be home? Moms dragging their kids to your house to use your bathroom because "the public toilets are just not clean enough"? Those residents know how bad it is during concert nights, I think most of them probably purchased knowing the concerts went on and I am not aware of a single one who has tried to stop the concerts. Should they, as well as all Second St residents, now be subjected to amplified music on EVERY night?
PDA may be trying to push this but I predict a big rebellion from people who know that the entitlement mentality of people in this town often walks all over the rights of property owners to live in peace.
Make conditional permits that carry still fines for EVERY violation and that will be permanently revoked after, say, three legitimate citizen complaints. Then you might have the approval of people who know that once something is allowed in this town, it has a life of it's own and cannot be stopped. Consider the sleazy nightclub on Hopyard -- even a shooting is not enough to cause the city to revoke their license.

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Posted by me
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2012 at 8:57 pm

Amen... it's about time Pleasanton considered this. I've been downtown in the evening... with a mean age of at least 50, the crowd down there is not the type that will be fighting in the streets!

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Posted by Noreen
a resident of Castlewood
on Apr 22, 2012 at 10:17 pm

I worry most about that 50 year-old set. Motorcycles and guns is my experience, and don't we have enough of that already? Well, I'm not talking about me and my neighbors owning our own firearms for protection of our property, that's our right as specified clearly in the Constitution, but I'm talking about big burly hairy guys on their choppers and the disreputable women they showcase on the back of their bikes.

If the PPD could set up a large metal detecting device on Main St. and forced everyone to pass through it, that might go a good ways towards convincing me. Otherwise, the place just becomes a magnet for Sonny Barger Hell's Angels types. They smell and they're scarey. They hide behind their toys for tots antics but deep down they all have a cruel streak.

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Posted by Jim Freeman
a resident of another community
on Apr 22, 2012 at 10:24 pm

Aww HELL no! You're right, Noreen, plus what about the cost of the drug-sniffing dogs they'll have to bring in.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I DON'T WANT TO PAY MY TAXES!!

Like this comment
Posted by Noreen
a resident of Castlewood
on Apr 22, 2012 at 10:50 pm

There once lived a neighbor of mine in Castlewood who was an accountant by day and a Hell's Angel at night and on the week-ends. I would hear his heavy engineer boots clobbering down his driveway and knew that shortly after he'd be starting up his ghastly noise making machine. He'd bring loose women to his home and they'd use the pool in his backyard and I'd eavesdrop sometimes and hear them talk about all the cruel pleasure they got scaring the good people around them.

That's what I'm deathly afraid of. Pleasanton will become a mecca for the Hell's Angels and we'll all be left frightened and unable to do anything. Has anyone seen Marlon Brando's "The Wild Bunch"? Well, I'm here to tell you that it could happen here. I also don't like paying taxes, but if our usually inept police force could somehow guarantee that a really big metal detector could be constructed on Main St., then that might discourage the big and burly ruffians on their motorcycles. The main point is to keep bad people away from P-town.

Like this comment
Posted by Cindy
a resident of Danbury Park
on Apr 23, 2012 at 8:37 am

Once again the crazies come out of the woodwork.

Like this comment
Posted by sybil
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2012 at 8:54 am

'Noreen', the main point is on the top of your head.

Like this comment
Posted by sherry
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Apr 23, 2012 at 9:43 am

Are those last comments for real?

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Posted by Penelope
a resident of Downtown
on Apr 23, 2012 at 10:39 am

You freaking people are insane!! Noreen and Jim!!! So we can serve wine past ten, I'm sure all those bike guys with their guns are super excited to have a glass wine in up-tight Pleasanton.
CRAZY!! Don't ever comment again on anything.

Pleasantons night-life is always going to suck. We have too many rules and people complaining all the time.
Even if the bars do stay open later they stop serving alcohol at 12pm.Whats the point of staying at a bar if you can't drink. Last call is 2AM so keep serving till then.

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Posted by Mike
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Apr 23, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Do what you want, but I prefer evenings at home with my family.

I like spending time with my kids, my wife's a great cook, I can get my drinks the way I like them, and I don't have to be around people with appetite control issues.


Like this comment
Posted by Not Sure
a resident of Danbury Park
on Apr 23, 2012 at 5:50 pm

We go to Walnut Creek and Danville to spend our money after 9:00pm seems they handle it OK. And just think how happy PPD will be, instead of trying to catch locals rolling stop signs they can get more big time DUIs.

Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Parkside
on Apr 23, 2012 at 8:20 pm

Mike, I think that's your best post, ever. I'm sure you represent the majority of residents in town, but to each his own. At least we don't have to worry about getting pulled over for DUI.

Like this comment
Posted by Me
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2012 at 9:07 am

I also suggest that they allow the farmer's market to expand some...maybe on the other side of Angela. Some vendors have told me they aren't there all year round because there isn't enough room... in the summer they have to make way for produce vendors. I've been to other farmer's markets where they sell breakfast burritos and coffee, etc. This market could definitely grow some more.
We spoke with one of the managers at the market (someone in an official shirt) who told us they want to grow, but they are not allowed. Just like the stories we hear from the restaurants...we want to do more but are not allowed.
Glad that Pleasanton is considering more for downtown and hope it continues.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Laguna Oaks
on Apr 24, 2012 at 9:31 am

The ignorance and prejudice of posters on here constantly amazes me. We will continue to pay high taxes because you people want nothing that would bring in addition tax revenue by business and development. So individuals must make up the difference You talk property owners rights, yeah ask the Lins about that. A large portion of this town is only interested in what they consider their own personal agenda and change their positions to fit their selfish wants, not what is best for the town.

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Posted by Downtown
a resident of Ruby Hill
on Apr 24, 2012 at 9:57 am

Why do people wonder why banks are the only businesses interested in moving into the downtown area?

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Posted by Noreen
a resident of Castlewood
on Apr 24, 2012 at 10:03 am

What's wrong with another bank? I think people should have a choice to shop for as many banks as possible. Increased competition between banks leads to more good deals like free toasters and stuff. I've been using an old toaster my mother got with S&H Green Stamps some years back. I'd love a new one.

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Posted by Jim
a resident of Charter Oaks
on Apr 24, 2012 at 2:40 pm

We go to downtown Livermore for later night dining, etc. Also we do Danville and Walnut Creek. Downtown ptown doesn't quite get it. Ptown is a great place though. But we don't have the right people to pull it off.

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Posted by Pete
a resident of Del Prado
on Apr 25, 2012 at 9:03 am

Noreen & Jim,
Really ? Pleasanton... A Mecca for Hells Angels, Union Bosses... Metal Detectors on Main Street ? Get a grip people... Get some therapy... Get a Dewars Double after 10:00 pm downtown with a Valium back... Jim needs one of the Disreputable women that showcase themselves on the Choppers & Noreen needs a night with a burley Hells Angel... LIGHTEN UP
Over 50