Like thousands of other Westside residents, Beverly Hills pediatrician Trisha Roth has discovered that the rejuvenated Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica now boasts a thriving night life and an impressive array of hip restaurants and bars.
Some restaurant and bar owners wish she had not.
Roth has made a name for herself in her home city as a vigorous and sometimes strident opponent of alcohol abuse. She has campaigned actively before the City Council, school board and PTA for programs to prevent the serving of alcohol to minors and to discourage drinkers from driving. In her unsuccessful effort to win a seat on the Beverly Hills City Council early this year, an anti-alcohol message was a major component of her campaign.
Now she is branching out. In recent months, Roth has been raising objections before the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Department to liquor license applications from new businesses all over the Westside, and she has paid particular attention to the three-block outdoor mall.
The protests have forced the state agency to hold a hearing before granting a license, a process that can hold up a license for months. Roth does not withdraw her protests unless the applicants agree to implement programs encouraging responsible drinking.
Her latest protest is over a liquor license sought by a restaurant called the Golden Monkey Cafe, which is scheduled to open in February on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Third Street.
Roth says she is pleased that she has found a way to force establishments that seek liquor licenses to develop designated-driver programs, but she complains that some restaurants have gone back on their word and have done little or nothing to discourage drinking and driving once the licenses have been issued.
"If they didn't have one more liquor license in Santa Monica, they would still have plenty of licenses," Roth said. "The biggest crime is the impact on the youth. What our kids are seeing is that there is no way to have fun without alcohol. I think that is very sad."
Carl Falletta, a spokesman for the Alcoholic Beverage Control Department, said that new applications for full liquor licenses generally take about three months to approve but that a protest such as Roth's can extend the process to as much as a year.
The state does not require licensees to have designated driver or server training programs, Falletta said, although in some cases it may attach to the license stipulations governing such things as live entertainment or set hours of operation.
Thomas H. Carroll, executive director of the Bayside District Corp., the nonprofit group that manages the Promenade, said most proprietors are responsible and have drunk driving programs in place, although perhaps not at the level Roth would like.
Carroll said owners realize that the sale of alcohol is vital to the success of their businesses, and they do not want to risk losing their licenses.
"No one wants to turn their place into a beer bust," he said.
Carroll said he agrees with Roth's concerns.
"It's reasonable," he said. "We all know somebody who has been killed by a drunk driver. The whole issue of drinking and not driving is crucial, particularly at this time of year."
Carroll said the idea of a coordinated designated-driver program for the Promenade will be among the items discussed at a meeting of proprietors later this week.
Councilman Dennis Zane, a major force in the mall's renovation, said that he too believes most proprietors are acting responsibly but that the city may be in a position to encourage even more cooperation from licensees.
"I have been involved in discussions about developing strategies for reducing the negative behavior associated with alcohol consumption," he said. "We want the Promenade to be a class operation for everyone who comes."
Roth insists that she is not singling out the Promenade in her campaign. In fact, she makes a point of protesting most new license applications on the Westside. It is with the Promenade protests, however, that she has managed to draw city officials and licensees into at least preliminary negotiations for a comprehensive policy for many establishments.
Roth says her ideal would be a highly visible program at every liquor-serving establishment in which every group of patrons has a designated driver. That person would wear a button and would be served free coffee or soft drinks. She said she would also like to see so-called notices posted at each table warning against the dangers of drinking and driving.
Randy Larscheid, general manager of the Golden Monkey, said his 344-seat restaurant will have such a program in place for its late-February opening.
"We would like to be a model of reference for other restaurants," Larscheid said. "It's the '90s, and it's something that has to be done."