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SLO booze rules pass Go 

After a bit of give and take on the part of the city and downtown San Luis Obispo bar and restaurant owners, it looks like new rules for businesses that sell booze will soon be on the books.

On June 19, the SLO City Council approved its “Deemed Approved Ordinance,” which creates a new set of standards and regulations for businesses.

Councilman Dan Carpenter recused himself from the vote because he said he owns a commercial property near an alcohol-related business.

Under the new rules, bars and restaurants serving alcohol after 11 p.m. will be required to run employees through special state Alcohol Beverage Control training, install video surveillance systems, have a manager present during entertainment events, and comply with a host of other requirements.

These new rules will go into effect in 30 days and will apply only to new businesses seeking a permit. However, should existing businesses be the target of frequent complaints, they could also be required to comply.

Under the new policy, violators would go before an administrative hearing officer to rectify the problems. Penalties could hypothetically culminate in revocation if violations are not corrected.

The ordinance previously went before the council for approval on May 15, but council members at the last minute decided to exclude the Downtown Association and its newly formed Safe Nightlife subcommittee from the administrative hearing process.

This enraged the affected business owners, some of whom threatened to no longer cooperate with the city. However, Safe Nightlife Committee Coordinator Steve Tolley, a retired SLOPD lieutenant who joined with the business owners as an advisor, told New Times that tensions between the two have eased up after a June 7 meeting with city staffers to redraft language within the ordinance.

Under the new language, the Downtown Association, in a nonofficial capacity, would be allowed to collect input directly from the offending business for an administrative hearing.

Councilwoman Kathy Smith said the ordinance is “not perfect” and that there are still concerns on the part of the city and the business owners on how the whole thing will shake out. And rumblings remain under the surface that the ordinance was always less about safety concerns than it was about crafting a friendlier image of downtown.

Responding to a resident who claimed that alcohol-related businesses were encroaching upon retail outlets, Councilman John Ashbaugh acquiesced that the ordinance was drafted to “control the proliferation and over-concentration” of bars in the downtown area.

The ordinance stems from a study drafted three years ago by a Berkeley-based consultant—at a cost to the city of nearly $22,000—which found that criminal events from 2008 were disproportionately related to late-night alcohol establishments. The legitimacy of the study has been widely questioned.

The council is set to review the ordinance in one year to gauge its effectiveness.

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