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Bar scene gives Huntington Beach both headaches and a hearty revenue boost

With a high DUI rate and residents complaining of drunks on the streets, the city has imposed restrictions and employed new police tactics. But the tax money generated by partyers is much needed, city leaders say.

April 03, 2011|By Nicole Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times

"It needed to have the kind of development that would draw people to it at all times of the day," said Steve Bone, president of the Huntington Beach Marketing and Visitors Bureau. "Now it does."

The development has been good for city coffers, but it's caught between angry residents concerned about their quality of life and businesses that bring in much-needed revenue.

Mayor Joe Carchio said downtown businesses need liquor licenses to draw customers.

"Restaurants are not going to survive unless they have alcohol," he said. "Unless you're a McDonald's."

At Baja Sharkeez, which is also being investigated by the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control for potential violations, police have placed restrictions on the entertainment permit. Those include no live entertainment and no new customers after 1 a.m., the addition of a security guard and only single-sized drinks after midnight.

The restaurant worked with police to come up with the restrictions.

"At the end of the day, we want to be proactive," said Greg Newman, president of Baja Sharkeez.

But at Killarney Pub and Grill, another popular spot on Main Street, bartender Paul Roberts, 41, doesn't think Huntington Beach is wilder than other beach cities, despite the fact that he recently had to drag a pantless man out of the bar. He said people are attracted to the area because of its proximity to the ocean. Area beaches draw 16 million tourists a year.

"Affluence and sunshine breeds hot chicks," he said.

Come summer, police say, it will get even busier as the parade of partyers pouring out of bars looks more like the crowd after a massive concert, with throngs of intoxicated people trying to get home.

As Friday night winds down, Schoales and the other officers spot a woman standing all alone. They pull into an empty chiropractor's office parking lot and ask her what she's doing

"Nothing," she answers shyly, her hands in her pockets.

A moment later, her friend leaps off a nearby one-story building, landing feet from a dumpster.

The skinny 21-year-old's eyes become wide as he sits down near the car.

"Why did you jump off the building, man?" Schoales asks.

The jumper throws his hands in the air.

"Because I'm an idiot," he exclaims drunkenly.

The cops smile. Another arrest, another Friday night.

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