WALNUT CREEK -- The Vice Ultra Lounge will have to stop serving alcohol at 11 p.m., a consequence of various violations -- including fights and other rowdy behavior -- at the downtown night spot.
At a Thursday night hearing, the Walnut Creek Planning Commission said the situation will be reviewed after 90 days, when it's possible the club's 1:15 a.m. "last call" time could be restored.
A spokesman for the lounge contended the early cutoff time could cause irreparable harm.
"It is a death penalty for the business," Ron Rives, attorney for co-owner Matt DeLima, told the commissioners before the decision.
Commissioners followed city staff recommendations based on the Arroyo Way nightclub's history of violating its conditional use permit rules. But they said a key issue was the club management's relationship with law enforcement.
"What is essential is that the owner cooperates," Commissioner Matt Francois commented. Commissioner Cindy Darling encouraged DeLima to "reach out to police and come back."
Paul Rives, also an attorney for Vice, said DeLima will move to better cooperate with police to address the lounge's public safety and permit conditions.
"We want to cooperate with police, and we share their concerns," Rives said.
The city's staff report contains detailed police data on numerous incidents police Lt. Steve Gorski said have reduced police resources in other parts of the city.
Since late 2009, Vice
DeLima and several Vice employees disputed the police data and insisted the police presence was intimidating and unnecessary.
Gorski defended that presence: "We don't want incidents to go unreported. Seeing the police can sometimes deter an incident."
Titan Security began work at Vice three months ago, and one planning commissioner noticed a lull in reported incidents during that time.
The club's food service, open hours, open curtains and 14-day advanced requests to police for special events also did not conform to permit requirements, according to staff.
Admitting that hours and food service practices deviated from permit requirements, DeLima said this happened because the nature of the business changed from its original vision in order to survive in that location.
Before Thursday's commission's vote, City Manager Ken Nordoff had suspended the club's dance/cover charge permit. The conditional use and dance permits are independent of one another, but both relate to operating conditions.
Fearing Vice's closure, a stream of employees, patrons and Zumba instructor Raquel Call, who gives classes there, spoke in support of DeLima.
Dr. Andreas Camelot of John Muir Health and his wife, Amy, asked that Vice be allowed to proceed with a planned Halloween fundraiser for Crudem Hospital in Haiti. Amy Camelot said doctors visit Haiti twice annually to provide the only heart surgery there.
That event may proceed as planned,because there's a 10-day appeal period before the new "last call" deadline begins.
The 11 p.m. "last call" must remain in effect for a minimum of three months.
Commissioners discussed requiring a one-year time limit for owners to reapply for extended hours, but chose the shorter three-month period after discussion recalling a similar situation with the Lift Lounge and Grill on Locust Street, where problems were resolved after a three-month restriction of hours.