Sam Goldstein, who owns a historic building in downtown Laguna Beach occupied by two restaurants and a store, is known for his persistence in pursuing projects.
That trait paid off this week as the City Council unanimously agreed to Goldstein’s appeal that sought later operating hours to match that of his competitors and more umbrellas and heaters for the comfort of patrons of the Skyloft restaurant rooftop deck.
“Without that outcome, staying open would have been a real challenge,” Goldstein said in an email to supporters after the Tuesday, Jan. 24, decision.
Besides the owner, operator Ivan Spiers and hired consultants, eight others spoke at the meeting in support of revising the terms of the Skyloft conditional use permit, while two people opposed the extension.
Goldstein knows he may have dodged a bullet. Reining in rooftop dining is the subject of a discussion at a meeting of Village Laguna Monday, Jan. 30, at the Unitarian Church, 429 Cypress Dr. At least one other rooftop bar is in the works, part of a proposal to overhaul Coast Inn, and more may be on the way.
Goldstein renovated the once derelict two-level building at Coast Highway and Laguna Avenue that he purchased in 2006 and began pushing for a rooftop deck in 2014. His current tenant has devoted $4.5 million to renovating and soundproofing Skyloft, which opened little more than a year ago.
“It’s hard work to make a success of a second story; it’s a barrier to entry,” said Goldstein, whose previous upstairs tenant, Rock ‘n Fish, struggled in part because of its midnight closing time.
In seeking to extend its hours ‘til 2 a.m., Goldstein had an unexpected ally. Police Chief Laura Farinella supported the extension to prevent Skyloft crowds from noisily exiting onto the sidewalks to seek out neighboring bars still serving alcohol past midnight.
More than one restaurant operator in town has expressed frustration over inconsistent city-imposed restrictions on operating hours and entertainment among newer establishments that compete with “grandfathered” ones, such as the Saloon, White House, Sandpiper and Marine Room.
“We didn’t want the mad rush, crowds going up and down the streets,” said Farinella, who pointed out that recent Skyloft noise complaints involved patrons on the sidewalk not in the rooftop deck.
Resident Johanna Felder pointed out that the manager of neighboring Hotel Laguna presented a stack of guest complaints about Skyloft to a Dec. 14 hearing by the Planning Commission, which denied Goldstein’s request to extend operating hours.
Goldstein’s request for extra amenities to shield the sun and ward off the evening chill devolved into a discussion over alternative shade structures and view restrictions.
Resident Barbara Metzger told council she disapproved of adding umbrellas. “It destroys the historic character of the building,” she said.
Another resident, David Rubel, testified to new vibrancy he’s detected since a popular restaurant opened adjacent to his Forest Avenue jewelry store. “When they do better, the rest of the us do better,” he said of fellow merchants. “Don’t penalize him for trying to make something better,” he urged the council.
Council member Steve Dicterow agreed. “I want us to encourage rooftop and outdoor cafes.”
The new terms restrict patronage of Skyloft’s rooftop to midnight, its second level to 2 a.m., entertainment to 1 a.m., and a maximum of 20 heaters and 16 heat lamps on the outdoor deck.
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