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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Seaside Hotel Awarded Liquor License Despite 101 Traffic Concerns

September 14, 2000|JENIFER RAGLAND | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

MUSSEL SHOALS — Sales of hard liquor at the Cliff House Inn won't add to unsafe conditions at the intersection of U.S. 101 and this coastal neighborhood, the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has decided.

Neighbors of the small ocean-side hotel and restaurant were fighting owner Sanford Porter's bid to offer his patrons cocktails because they feared the more potent drinks would increase the number of accidents at the already dangerous crossing.

But Administrative Law Judge John P. McCarthy, who heard arguments for both sides in July, said there was no evidence that beer and wine sales at the business have contributed to the intersection's bloody track record.

"If impaired drivers were going to create a hazard sufficient to deny [the permit], one would have expected that a significant history of serious accidents, resulting from alcohol, would have been established," McCarthy wrote in his ruling, which was accepted by the state department last week.

Unless residents appeal the ruling--a decision they say they have yet to make--the permit will take effect Oct. 23.

But Porter said he won't serve any hard liquor until the California Department of Transportation does something about the Mussel Shoals intersection.

Drivers leaving the Cliff House to go north must first cross the southbound lanes with freeway traffic traveling at least 65 mph. There have been seven crashes there in the last two years. From 1994 to 1998, four people died and 120 were injured on the scenic stretch of road between Mussel Shoals and Ventura.

A committee is pushing for an underpass that would make access to northbound 101 from Mussel Shoals safer, but in the meantime Porter said he will step up efforts to convince Caltrans to prohibit left-hand turns from the community onto the northbound highway. If that were to happen, residents leaving the neighborhood would have to drive south on U.S. 101 about two miles to the Seacliff exit and turn around to go north.

It would only be a temporary fix, but Porter said residents are afraid to get behind it because they fear Caltrans officials would then never come up with a permanent solution.

Robert Brunner, one of the residents who filed the initial appeal against the Cliff House, said he was happy to hear Porter would not be taking immediate advantage of the upgraded license. Brunner said his homeowners' association would consider whether to appeal the judge's decision.

"We're just tired of seeing the bloodshed out there," he said.

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