Santa Monica has signed an agreement with the 321 Club to resolve a dispute with the popular Westside teen nightspot without pursuing the revocation of the club's liquor license.
The settlement requires the club to hire a security guard, pay the city $20,000 for expenses involved in its dealings with the club and restrict people under 21 from areas where alcohol is served.
Minors are allowed into the club at 321 Santa Monica Blvd., but they are not allowed to consume alcohol. The club has two bars and features dancing to live bands, music videos and records.
In January the city, in an accusation filed with the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, charged the club with several violations, including serving alcohol to minors and employing guards who assaulted patrons. Hearings were scheduled for Aug. 12 on whether to revoke or suspend the club's license.
Victor Herman, a lawyer representing the club, denied the allegations. He said the club would have prevailed in the hearings but that it was "to everyone's mutual advantage" to settle. He said the settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing.
The dispute was often vitriolic. The City Council voted unanimously last October to ask the alcoholic beverage agency to revoke or suspend the liquor license. Police Chief James F. Keane called the club his "No. 1 problem." The city's accusation listed about 80 incidents at or near the club in the last two years. Herman said last October that the city was conducting an "inquisition" rather than looking for solutions.
But the differences appear to have been set aside. "I think it was more a misunderstanding by the city than anything else," Herman said, speaking for club owner Lloyd Moody, who was on a cruise in the Mediterranean.
"The city, if it had been totally successful in the hearings, would have simply gotten rid of the 321 Club's liquor license. . . . The settlement gives them written assurances that the club will extend its best efforts to minimize the effects on the community of the people that attend the club."
2 Hearings Delayed
Deputy City Atty. Jeffrey Holtzman said the Alcoholic Beverage Control hearings had been delayed twice and, if an appeal of any ruling were filed, it could have been two more years before the matter was resolved.
As a result of the settlement, the city has agreed to dismiss the complaint.
"If we took away their liquor license, they could still operate essentially without any controls," Councilman David G. Epstein said. "This settlement provides us with a great deal of control over their operation and an ability to revoke their business license if they don't behave themselves."
Councilman James P. Conn said that "kids deserve to have a place to go that reflects their own culture. I also think that people who are running those kinds of establishments have certain standards of behavior they have to maintain."
And Keane said that vagrancy is now the main problem. "This agreement will correct the deficiencies (at the club)," Keane said. "If not, we'll just start over again and get the ABC involved. . . . If that's a retreat, then we're retreating every day around here."
The settlement, signed Wednesday, also requires the club to:
- Refuse admission to minors who appear to be under the influence of alcohol and make available to the city a log of all incidents.
- Deny admission for six months to minors who have been convicted or pleaded guilty or no contest to alcohol-related incidents that occurred while they were on the way to or leaving the club.
- Patrol restrooms to discourage use of drugs and bar admission for one year to minors who have illegal drugs at the club.
- Relocate the entrance from Santa Monica Boulevard to the rear to reduce congestion of people waiting outside.
The city has agreed to investigate the possibility of moving a bus bench in front of the club that had attracted loiterers.
The settlement comes at a time of controversy over teen clubs. Los Angeles closed the Westside's Odyssey club in February. Last month the Los Angeles City Council tentatively approved an ordinance that requires teen clubs to close at 10 p.m. on school nights and 1 a.m. on weekends and before holidays. Patrons 13 and 14 would need parental consent to enter.
"I think the city fathers of Santa Monica recognized that teen-agers need a place to congregate and that as long as it's policed, there is no problem," Herman said. "That's one of the things my client is trying to provide--a place where teen-agers can come and dance and listen to music and socialize in a safe atmosphere. Apparently that is not going to exist anywhere in the city of Los Angeles."