Residents oppose restaurant liquor license

Barron Park residents have fought continuous battles against alcohol sales along El Camino Real in Palo Alto

In another round of preserving what residents say is the safety and quiet of their neighborhood, Barron Park residents are again opposing a liquor license application by a Palo Alto restaurant along El Camino Real.

Two residents wrote to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) earlier this month to protest the proposed license at Chalateco, a Salvadoran restaurant, ABC spokesman John Carr said. The restaurant is undergoing renovations at 3850 El Camino Real and is the former location of a Taco Bell.

Residents have opposed a string of applications by restaurants and stores after what they say has been years of crime, noise and public drunkenness along their stretch of El Camino. Neighbors claim there are enough alcohol outlets in the area. The site is close to schools and the location is in the middle of a residential area.

Residents successfully opposed a liquor license proposed for the Maybell Avenue Walgreens in 2010. The store went against an agreement it made at the time it opened that it would not apply for a liquor permit.

In 2008, residents opposed a liquor license for the now-closed Ramen Club noodle restaurant at 3924 El Camino Real. They said they feared alcohol would bring the same problems they previously experienced when a bar-restaurant, Armando's, inhabited the location.

Armando's required a high level of police intervention in early-morning hours, John Benza, a Barron Park resident said in a March 5, 2008, letter to the city during the opposition. The restaurant and La Cumbre's, another nearby El Camino establishment, ultimately had their conditional-use permits revoked.

Ramen Club's owner accepted modified terms for serving alcohol and ultimately received the liquor license, but it later left the location.

Chalateco's permit isn't the only application currently under fire. Multiple residents are currently opposing a license application for E Wines and Liquors, which is located at 3870 El Camino Real. Ernie's Wines and Liquors was previously located there, but in November 2010, it moved to a strip mall just steps away -- the former home of A-1 Liquors.

E Wines, which opened in May, was granted an interim liquor permit, but due to residential opposition, ABC held a hearing on July 25 and 26. An administrative law judge could soon issue a decision. The director of the ABC then has 100 days to determine whether to adopt or not adopt the judge's decision, Carr said.

Chalateco's next step "would be to see if it can work out an agreement with the community and address residents' issues," Carr said.

"If the issues are not resolved, there would be a public hearing within 60 days," he said.

License applicant Leopoldo Martinez could not be reached for comment.


Like this comment
Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2012 at 9:18 am

Wonder how many of these Barron Parkers signed the petition for Pot Parlors in Palo Alto? Also wonder if these folks so upset about alcohol being sold near their neighborhoods by booze in other people's neighborhoods?

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2012 at 9:27 am

If a restaurant can't get an alcohol license, it will not want to operate without one. I imagine a restaurant will produce less problems than either a Taco Bell (fast food restaurant) or an empty lot.

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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 26, 2012 at 2:26 pm

I don't quite understand how people can consider El Camino a "neighborhood" when it has been commercial and retail for years. In addition, a restaurant with a license to serve liquor is far different from a bar or a liquor store (I don't think many places, commercial or otherwise, need more liquor stores). I actually understand Walgreens wanting to sell liquor, if CVS can sell liquor, they should be able to also.

Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 26, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Who cares if a legitimate restaurant serves beer and wine ?
Are these "clubs" or social gathering spots or restaurants ?
I know the area over in Barron Park where there used to be two liquor stores whose names I cannot recall now, was kind of nightmare for many years but this should be totally different. Is this just restraint of trade by other restaurants that have liquor and do not want to lose their customers?

This sounds to me like some kind of political shenanigans.

Like this comment
Posted by Ashley
a resident of University South
on Aug 27, 2012 at 8:00 am

Chase away more businesses from Palo Alto. Just what we need, more vacant buildings up and down ECR.

Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto process
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 27, 2012 at 8:42 am

This is the "Palo Alto Process" that everyone complains about. Does the city let neighbors have too much input about what property owners are doing with their property?

Like this comment
Posted by bill kelly
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 27, 2012 at 9:57 am

I'm thinking that many of the people commenting don't have a clear understanding of the history of Barron Park and alcohol consumption. When the city of Palo Alto was 'dry', Barron park was wet; so wet that it was a hell hole of poorly run establishments that in the late 1980's came to a head with an all out knife fighting riot on El Camino! I beleive more than four police departments were involved over several hours before order was restored and there were several injuries.

Given that history I applaud the barron park residents for reminding the city and the ABC of the past and asking for a thoughtful process in making sure that the bad times don't return.

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Posted by anon
a resident of another community
on Aug 27, 2012 at 4:12 pm

PAP: The people have a legal right to voice their opinions, and the city has a legal obligation to hear them. If they went through all of that and then still did what ever they want - I suppose you could call that the palo alto process. However I think you are stretching it a little. All I'm really getting from your post is we have one group of people who don't feel listened to enough (re CA Ave) and one group of folks who thinks everyone is listened to entirely too much (you and likely a few others). What's funny is I'll bet half the people are in both camps. In other words "only listen to the people that are saying what I want to hear." Fortunately our government does not work that way.

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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2012 at 7:15 pm

> Given that history

So the future must be locked tightly with the past? There was a time that Barron Park was not a part of Palo Alto, and we didn't have to listen to all the craziness that comes out of that section of town.

If we are going to march to the drums of the past--let's go back to the days that Barron Park was in unincorporated Santa Clara County .. and let it fend for itself.

Like this comment
Posted by Defending noisy drunks
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 27, 2012 at 7:36 pm

Funny how some people defend noisy, often urinating drunks. I don't want them congregating near where I live, maybe you do.
Given the history of that part of El Camino, nearby residents are justified to try to prevent their return.

Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 28, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Although I live in Barron Park, I am not involved in this particular instance. However, I have some knowledge of previous instances of this issue.

1. Walgreens: Not only was there a promise of no alcoholic beverages in the original approval, the store is also a gathering place for teenagers. There was a large group of parents who thought this potential combination was undesirable.

2. Density of alcoholic beverage establishment: This is well-known to have a strong correlation to crime, and zoning often includes regulations to limit this density. Such regulations routinely take into account the different impacts of different establishments. Liquor stores and bars have high impact, sit down restaurants have low impact. Take-out places, such as Chalateco, fall in between. Checking Yelp!, I find that their Mt View location doesn't serve alcohol, but their Santa Clara one does. Recognize that the next two properties contain liquor stores (which provides arguments in both directions).

3. History: The ongoing history of this section of Palo Alto is that the City refuses to deal with developing problems. For example, the bar Armando's cited in the article was well-known to the police for drug dealing and heavy on-premise drug use in the basement. They had a telephone illegally installed on the sidewalk so that the drug transactions were technically separate from their property. The police, supported by the neighbors, could not get the City Attorney to simply enforce the zoning code to get the phone removed.

The incident cited by Bill Kelley above involved a brawl that spilled out of the La Cumbre club and involved over 100 people and closed El Camino for over an hour. This was the culmination of many years of fights, stabbings, large brawls, ... at the Club and in the vicinity. Each time as the club was about to have its license revoked (for continuous flagrant violations), there would be a sham transfer of ownership which the City of Palo Alto would wink at, letting the violence continue unabated.

If you have a situation where the City is willing to enforce the laws and regulations to keep developing problems from getting out of hand, flexibility can be allowed in these situations. However, when the City has a long history of allowing problems to fester to the point of exploding, and of even being part of the problem, it is difficult to criticize people who take whatever opportunity they have to avoid such problems from getting started.

Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2012 at 10:20 am

> Density of alcoholic beverage establishment: This is well-known
> to have a strong correlation to crime

Perhaps in a big city, but what about Palo Alto? Any correlation between the street crimes in downtown, or the residential burglaries, and the alcohol retailers in Palo Alto? Without a direct linkage to “crime”, claims like this are just smoke and mirrors.

> in the late 1980's came to a head with an all out knife
> fighting riot on El Camino!

Any details? Like newspaper articles that document this incident? Any others, or was this the only incident of this magnitude?

> The police, supported by the neighbors, could not get the
> City Attorney to simply enforce the zoning code to get the
> phone removed.

Is there a paper trail here, or just more “personal history”. What specially in the zoning code should the City Attorney have enforced? And if “everybody knew” that drugs were being sold there, why couldn’t an undercover cop bust ‘em?

Like this comment
Posted by Defending noisy drunks
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 29, 2012 at 10:41 am

Many people remember these events. There is a point where asking for "evidence" of well known events is a trick to disparage something you don't like.
You can verify some of these events yourself and do a little less posturing.

Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2012 at 11:26 am

> You can verify some of these events yourself
> and do a little less posturing.

Really? And where would someone do that? Claims that the City Attorney would not do his job might be try, but how would you prove that from twenty years ago? If we go to the City’s web-site, can we find the name of the City Attorney from that period? Or how about his files? Think that they are in an archive anywhere?

Palleeeze …

There is a point where denying "evidence" for claimed well known events
is a trick to disparage something people’s just asking for the facts.

Like this comment
Posted by
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 10, 2012 at 7:10 pm

There's an article right here on the Weekly's website about the problems with the old La Cumbre club: Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by some guy
a resident of another community
on Sep 11, 2012 at 7:25 pm

I lived in Barron Park when La Cumbre got closed down. Before La Cumbre, it was a strip joint with a liquor license. Before that, it was the El Rancho Motel, also with a liquor license. The obvious reason that La Cumbre was a problem was that it was a latino hangout. Sometimes the truth hurts, and often it gets censored from PAonline.

Like this comment
Posted by just thinkin'
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 14, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Make all the restaurants in town take-out only. It will cut-down on drunk driving! Make everyone drink at home in private like any respectible lush...........
Oh, but make sure to collect the sales taxes on the drinks..........

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