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DOWNTOWN : Zoning Official Puts Jack's on Notice

July 25, 1993|IRIS YOKOI

Jack's Placita must clean up its act or the city will close the colorful restaurant and bar, a city zoning official has ruled.

Associate zoning administrator Andrew Sincosky ordered in a recent report that the operator of the eatery at 327-329 Broadway must prevent the consumption of alcoholic beverages near the open store front, construct a screen wall to enclose the bar area and open for business an hour later--at 10 a.m. rather than 9.

Sincosky also banned dancing at the facility and ruled that the owners must have a uniformed security guard on duty during operating hours, expeditiously clean up graffiti on its exterior walls and pay a $4,052 fine for the city's investigation.

In his report dated July 9, Sincosky agreed with neighboring merchants that Jack's is a public nuisance and must comply with the list of conditions or have its use permit revoked.

The ruling comes after Sincosky conducted a hearing in March in response to neighbors' complaints that the bar draws patrons who drink, loiter, harass passersby, brawl, urinate and use drugs in the area, scaring away customers. Merchants and police officers suggested enclosing the bar and prohibiting alcohol sales in the morning to quell the problems.

Placita property owners argued at the hearing against the enclosure and the limited hours. The owners said a physical barrier would change the character of Jack's from a family restaurant to a dark bar. The property owners also contended the morning alcohol sales bring in a significant amount of business and serve a "legitimate" clientele of night-shift workers.

The property owners offered to hire new security guards, clean up the area and prohibit alcohol in the storefront. They also told Sincosky they would not renew restaurant owner Jack Katash's lease when it expires later this year.

Katash said last week that his lease expires in a few months and he has not heard from officials of the Meshul Family Trust, owners of the property, about a renewal. Meshul officials did not return phone calls last week.

Katash angrily blamed a liquor store next door for the drinking loiterers and said he was being unfairly punished.

Katash, who has run Jack's Placita for 15 years, argued that he has already hired security guards and discontinued drag shows that had sparked complaints. Police acknowledged at the March hearing that conditions have improved at Jack's in recent months.

On a recent weekday morning, Katash gestured around the restaurant, where a few customers munched fried foods and sipped bottled beers at 10 a.m.

"As you see, we don't have winos," Katash said. "There are a lot more bars around with a lot more problems. This business has been here since 1929. It's a landmark."

Jack's Placita has been famous for its fried shrimp specials, pre-noon cocktails and one-time drag shows. It became infamous for two bodies found in the walk-in freezer last October.

The bodies were identified as those of Katash's ex-wife, who ran the bar, and her lover, Katash's cousin. The pair were strangled and had been missing for eight months. Police are centering their investigation on two brothers who worked at Jack's at the time of the pair's disappearance but then returned to Mexico.

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