Art Walk Galleries Can Serve Alcohol Again

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By Cassandra Reinhart | LB Indy

Persistence and patience have paid off for First Thursdays Art Walk businesses owners as they will be able to serve alcohol during the monthly event after all.

Packed meeting at Montage Resort to resolve Art Walk Galleries serving alcohol to customers
Packed meeting at Montage Resort to resolve Art Walk Galleries serving alcohol to customers

In a packed afternoon meeting held at the Montage on December 15, Laguna Beach’s Police Chief personally assured local business owners that police are on their side and want to make what has become a nearly two-month saga over alcohol compliance “right” with local businesses.

“Our intent is always to work with you,” Police Chief Laura Farinella told local business owners. “I have an obligation to the community and to you.”

Police announced at the meeting that Art Walk business owners will be able to serve alcohol under an umbrella license to be held by the Art Walk Board. Businesses will then complete ABC 221, a daily alcohol license application, which will be turned in to the police department for approval. That signed form will then need to go to the ABC office in Santa Ana, where a $25 fee will get business owners a permit.

“You can only serve within the establishment. No youth, and there has to be an exchange for the alcohol. It can be a penny, but if ABC checks on you there has to be an exchange,” Farinellia said.

The meeting follows months of anger and unrest by local business and gallery owners who were cited in an undercover alcohol compliance sting on November 3 during the First Thursdays Art Walk.

The event, a long-standing monthly open house, invites the public into businesses and galleries after-hours. Until the sting, businesses often offered free alcohol to those of age who stopped by.

“We screwed up,” City Council member Rob Zur Schmeide said at the December 13 council meeting. “I believe it was too heavy handed, I know it was too heavy handed. You learn from your mistakes.”

“I think people were caught by surprise and upset because they incurred attorney fees, they were inconvenienced,” said Larry Nokes, President of the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce. “From the police perspective they thought they were enforcing the rules.”

Nokes and the Chamber took the lessons learned during Art Walk and made sure a blanket temporary use permit covered businesses intending to serve during the December 2 Hospitality Night.

“I personally walked hospitality village that afternoon and handed out licenses,” Farinella said. “Next year we will close Forest so people can walk around with their beverage.”

Farinella says irresponsible drinking causes problems for Laguna Beach. Public intoxication arrests are up from 403 in 2015 to 516 so far this year. She says the grant the police department received from ABC this year won’t solve everything, but it will help.

“I hear all these rumor mills coming my way on how this grant money is spent,” Farinella told business owners at the meeting. “This past year we got $15,300. ABC grants allow police departments to address the alcohol related problems. We want to save lives, not just take people to jail.”

Carla Arzente, owner of Salt Fine Art, was one of the seven local businesses issued misdemeanor citations for serving alcohol without a license in the November enforcement. Although the District Attorney’s Office eventually dropped the citations against business owners and the police department has now extended the olive branch to businesses, Arzente isn’t assuaged.

“I appreciate what they are doing now but I genuinely wish they had done something before,” Arzente said. “I appreciate the goodwill but I don’t understand how it happened. How this ever seemed like a good plan to anyone.”

Overall, business owners seemed relieved to hear from police and have a solution to serving during Art Walk and special events. Nokes sees the meeting as progress.

“I think we went a long way toward establishing better communications at the meeting,” Nokes said. “And so long as the police department assists the businesses in becoming compliant and are understanding and don’t go in heavy with people, that relationship will continue to grow.”

“I want us to be successful, Laguna Beach is an awesome city, great community and visitors,” Farinella said. “Let’s build from here.”

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4 COMMENTS

  1. I would think the city council could now adopt a new policy regarding art galleries and business taxes, since they are now allowed to serve alcohol, or maybe they could reduce the sale tax for liquor stores and markets to sell art?

  2. Just another one of the embarrassing boondoggles to add to the LB Police Department, City Council & City Staff. Once again, it comes down to $$$ being extorted by Art galleries who continue to struggle to market & promote the small galleries in LB. A small taste of wine with cheese & crackers has become a well known part of the hospitality of the Art Walk experience for well over a decade. The abrupt manner the city handled the sting citing Art Galleries is a reflection on how out of touch our City has become with our local businesses, tourists & residents. Shame on City Manager for allowing this to happen to our struggling Artist & Art galleries!!

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