Tony and Jack Dudum, the son and father owners of 1515 Restaurant and Lounge, will be in front of the City Council Tuesday, once again to deal with the issue of 1515’s closing times. In September, the City Council said they had to stop serving alcohol at 1 a.m. They wanted to be able to serve alcohol at their North Main Street bar and restaurant until 1:45 a.m.
The Dudums went to the city Planning Commission and Council last summer, asking for permission to extend their hours and to be able to provide live entertainment and dancing. At that time, they could only serve alcohol until 12 a.m. downstairs and 11:30 p.m. upstairs. After listening to the Dudums say that the extended hours would bring them additional revenue and allow them to serve loyal night-owl customers, the City Council on September 15, 2009 came up with a compromise. It said that 1515 could serve alcohol until 1 a.m.
However, this extension was subject to a six-month probationary period. The period is up, and the question stands whether the Dudums should be able to serve alcoho past 1 a.m.
Unfortunately for the Dudums, the city says their restaurant didn’t do so well during the six months. There were eight incidents requiring a police response. These incidents include an assault, two thefts, someone being arrested on a warrant, another patron being arrested for public drunkenness, and the restaurant’s valet parking cars in handicapped spaces. In February, 1515 employees were caught drinking in the back of the restaurant.
In the fall, the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Department also suspended 1515’s liquor license
for 15 days. This suspension stems from a July 23, 2009 violation in which 1515 was found to have been serving alcohol past its designated closing time. In lieu of the suspension, 1515 agreed to pay a fine of $3,000.
Walnut Creek Community Development staff say in their report to the City Council that some of these incidents are not unique to 1515, but are typical of any downtown bar or lounge that focuses on serving alcohol. “With increased consumption of alcohol in the later hours, midnight to 2 a.m., the customers engage in more activities that require police intervention,” the report says. “At 1515 Restaurant and Lounge, the six-month probationary period with a later closing time of 1 a.m. has coincided with an increase of police incidents.”
The question about 1515 ‘s closing time comes as the city wrestles with the question of how to balance public safety against the desire to encourage commerce in Walnut Creek and to keep the downtown a happening Bay Area destination for dining and entertainment. Right now, there is a lot happening in downtown. Walnut Creek is “over-saturated” with serving alcohol. State Alcoholic Beverage Control guidelines say that nine establishments in the downtown would be satisfactory to serve the public’s need for alcohol. Walnut Creek has 99.
The Walnut Creek police try to regulate businesses’ alcohol use by staggering their alcohol cutoff hours. While some owners find these regulations unfair, the city says it considers each establishment’s request to on a case-by-case basis.
With regard to 1515, city staff is recommending that the business stop serving alcohol at 12:30 a.m. Staff says 1515 should also be barred from providing most live entertainment, except for solo musicians, and from offering reduced-priced drink promotions. 1515 can hold special events, which could include dancing, but it must receive advanced written notice from the police chief. Finally, 1515 must maintain a monthly gross ratio of food to alcohol sales of 65 to 35 percent.