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Garden Grove Waters Down Regulations for Cyber Cafes

Curfew is loosened, and businesses are allowed to stay open later. The city had beefed up its laws in a bid to end violence, but some owners sued.

November 28, 2002|Mai Tran | Times Staff Writer

Threatened by a lawsuit contending that city officials are trying to shut down cyber cafes, the Garden Grove City Council on Tuesday loosened regulations on computer game businesses and settled with two owners.

City officials agreed to revise what they had touted as the toughest ordinance in Orange County for cyber cafes.

The new regulations ease the curfew for minors and expand operating hours for the businesses, which will no longer be required to keep a log of customer names.

"We've reached out to make the ordinance as effective as possible and make them realistic and require them to be responsible businesspeople," said City Manager George Tindall. "You can't deny that we've had substantial police calls at these places. We needed to step up to the plate and get something done."

Officials reviewed the city's ordinance after an outbreak of violence at some of its two dozen cyber cafes. Police have been called to the businesses 289 times since June. That month, 14-year-old Edward Fernandez was followed home from a cyber cafe and shot to death.

Five cyber cafe owners filed a lawsuit after the city tightened the ordinance, saying they were being unfairly blamed for gang-related crimes.

A judge in August blocked the ordinance, which required minors to leave by 8 p.m., limited operating hours and required security guards after 6 p.m., among other restrictions. The judge ordered business owners and city officials to come up with a compromise.

City officials reviewed the ordinance with merchants and agreed to extend curfews to 10 p.m. and allow them to stay open until 2 a.m. on weekends. The cafes must still have security guards, but they don't have to keep a log of visitors.

The new regulations led one of the five owners to drop out of the lawsuit and two others to settle. The two remaining plaintiffs will have a hearing in January.

Diane Vo, owner of Vietnam Internet Center, said she should not be punished for the actions of gang members.

"Garden Grove should fight crimes and should not fight the cyber cafe owners," Vo said. "We did not do anything wrong and should not be punished for making an honest living."

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