High price of late-night permits prevents Oakland clubs from extending hours
on April 15, 2011
Since last July, Oakland clubs have been able to apply for permits to extend their hours from 2 am to 4 am. However, only three such permits have been issued, said city councilmember Nancy Nadel during a crime prevention meeting of the Jack London District Association last night.
“It’s a rather expensive permit and we didn’t have a lot of takers,” said Nadel, who identified Club 21, Bench and Bar and Karibbean City as the only three clubs that obtained the $5,000 permit.
The 18-month pilot program is a part of the city’s effort to reform its cabaret laws, which also benefit a newly created class of “small cabarets”—usually coffee shops and restaurants that host live music or film screenings. Under the previous ordinance those venues had to go through the same complicated and costly permitting process as larger nightclubs that have dancing floors and hold bigger parties.
The hour-extension permit doesn’t allow alcohol to be served after 2 am. But clubs can keep their doors open and continue to serve refreshments. Nadel said it allows people to leave on a more staggered basis, which may help reduce the noise when partygoers exit the clubs en mass. The permit also gives an opportunity for people to “sober up before they leave,” Nadel said.
“There’s a difference between what the law says and what people do,” said Gary Knecht, a board member of Jack London District Association. Knecht is worried that people would continue drinking during the after hours and thus make the permit meaningless.
“I certainly don’t go there myself,” Nadel laughed when asked whether there are city staff observing what’s going on in those clubs after 2 am. But Nadel said she had not heard of any problems with those three clubs so far and the city will “evaluate first and perhaps extend” the program in the future.
Three police officers at the meeting who patroled the downtown area after midnight said they hadn’t received any significant reports near those bars in the past few months.
“After 2 o’clock the alcohol sale is over, your revenue doesn’t really make much of it, ” said Alex Loera, the general manager of both Club 21 and Bench and Bar in an interview. “We did it for the convenience for our customers,” he said, adding that instead of going to San Francisco for longer hours, many of their customers will stay in Oakland.
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