Backlash Over Art Walk Alcohol Crackdown

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For all the talk of the City of Laguna Beach making an effort to be more business friendly, the actions of certain city officials on Thursday, Nov. 3, during Art Walk send an entirely different message.

The recent decision to enforce a California law that prohibits businesses without a liquor license from providing alcoholic beverages to customers without charge resulted in serious misdemeanor citations being issued to some local business owners, and has reportedly threatened the immigration status of one local gallery owner.

Laguna’s Art Walk has evolved over time to be one night every month that local merchants can hope for little extra foot traffic, and locals and visitors can stroll through town, often enjoying a libation provided by those same local merchants.

To be clear, according to the California Business and Professions Code Section 23300, giving, selling, or furnishing free alcoholic beverages at an unlicensed salon, clothing store, jewelry store, art gallery, etc. is not legal.

That said, and to the best of my knowledge, that law has rarely, if ever, been enforced.

In reading more about the enforcement action, it appears to have come about as a result of the City of Laguna Beach receiving a $15,530 grant in July of this year form the California ABC to combat “alcohol related crime, specifically sales to minors and driving under the influence.”

Before explaining why I believe this action was misguided at best, I wish to state that I believe that all laws must be obeyed if we are to maintain the integrity of our social fabric.

That said, it seems to me that a decision to enforce a long unenforced law, not to mention a law that a large percentage of local merchants likely did not know exists, required more careful consideration by the city: advanced notice that it is illegal for businesses without a license to provide alcohol to guests even free of charge and the city planned to begin enforcing it.

I sincerely hope that going forward, the key agencies in the city will take the time to consider the impact of decisions like this, and endeavor to provide all of us with the appropriate information in a timely manner so that we can all ensure that we are in compliance with the law.

Don Meek, Laguna Beach



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  1. Citizens deserve to be provided accurate information of the nature & source for the recent undercover sting operation that has targeted our local struggling art galleries on the night of Art Walk. I spoke to several gallery owners & operators who received citations by police on the night of Art Walk for serving a mere taste of wine with appetizers to their gallery patrons. An expected Art Gallery tradition of the past 15 years. This discretionary enforcement removing and restricting our simple civilian freedom of the peaceful enjoyment of local gallery hospitality at Art Walk.. Should Americans expect simple liberty & freedom or have we become a Police State with laws that merely serve to restrict our personal freedom in our neighborhoods & community. Recall the headline news of the police officer who cited the kids for operating a lemonade stand without a business license. Will our School Bake Sales become targeted next and cited by the Department of Health for selling homemade treats? Should the coming Hospitality Night at the Presbyterian Church be cited for serving homemade Christmas cookies?

  2. Yes strolling the sidewalls of Laguna sipping cheap wine, and gazing at art. Just another night in Paradise. But as soon as someone is involved in an accident, and alcohol is found to be a contributing factor, we will have a problem. The city and the gallery owners will find themselves in court being sued. The gallery owners for providing the alcohol, perhaps even to minors, and the city for allowing it to happen. My advise, be safe, stay sober. Serve lemonade.


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