|Hennessey's Tavern||34111 La Plaza, Dana Point CA|
Dana Point tavern slapped with restrictions in wake of Marines' car crash
Dana Point's Hennessey's Tavern and its next-door restaurant, The Fish Bucket, are being hit with 14 new conditions on their operating permits after a sharp increase in police activity there and the emergence of what city officials call a "nightclub atmosphere that's really gotten out of control."
The Planning Commission voted 4-1 on Monday night to amend the business's conditional-use and coastal-development permits. Owner Paul Hennessey now has 30 days to deliver a security plan implementing the changes for the commission to review.
The changes include:
• Erecting a wall between The Fish Bucket and Hennessey's Tavern to prevent patrons from circulating between them
• Eliminating indoor DJ entertainment
• Closing an hour and a half earlier, at 12:30 a.m.
• Installing round-the-clock security cameras
• If disturbances continue, the owner would have to compensate the city for the additional use of police services and for instituting checks with metal detectors.
Hennessey said he doesn't plan to oppose any of the conditions and will work with the city to make changes.
"We accept 100 percent responsibility," he said. "We have to make sure it's a safe environment."
The tavern already has eliminated live entertainment and DJs, moved up "last call" to midnight and employed a new security firm. But business is down 65 percent, Hennessey said.
The city and Hennessey's Tavern have been negotiating for years over measures to reduce police calls at the bar, but efforts intensified in February after a car crash on nearby Street of the Golden Lantern killed three Marines and injured another, said City Attorney Patrick Munoz. Authorities believe the crash involved alcohol, and Munoz said the Marines' last known location was Hennessey's Tavern.
City staff and the Orange County Sheriff's Department, which provides policing in Dana Point, compiled statistics on calls for service to the Hennessey's property the past three years, using four other Dana Point bars for comparison: Coconuts, Turk's, Renaissance and Sunsets.
Calls for police service at Hennessey's increased 57 percent since 2009, the study said. In 2011, there were 148 police calls there between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. The other bars averaged about 35 calls during those hours.
Sheriff's deputies have taken to parking their cars at Hennessey's every night in preparation for trouble, said Lt. Lynn Koehmstedt, Dana Point's new chief of police services.
Planning Commission Chairman Norm Denton called the report "pretty frightening."
"It's important that the business grow in a safe way," Denton said.
Similar or greater percentage increases in police calls were observed at the four other businesses the report used for comparison. But city Community Development Director Kyle Butterwick said there are no plans to examine those businesses.
According to dispatch logs, the Sheriff's Department last year received a total of 314 calls for service to the Hennessey's Tavern property at 34111 La Plaza. Vehicle-code violations and tows accounted for about half of those, and 43 calls were about unspecified disturbances. There were seven reports of assault and battery and eight reports of petty theft.
Commissioner April O'Donnell, who cast the lone dissenting vote Monday, said: "The statistics are not convincing. With higher occupancies, Hennessey's is naturally going to have more police calls."
Hennessey also expressed skepticism at the city's figures and said he plans to check the statistics with the Sheriff's Department.
He owns 10 Hennessey's Taverns across Southern California. He said Dana Point's location does not function differently from its counterparts, which haven't experienced any problems, Hennessey said.
The Dana Point location shares La Plaza with a 24-hour massage parlor, a 24-hour gas station, a Domino's Pizza and a liquor store, all of which could be contributing to the high numbers of police calls, Hennessey said.
"It's not really apples to apples," he said.
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