In a 4-1 vote, the Long Beach City Council rejected a proposal Tuesday night to allow the limited sale of alcohol at boardwalk restaurants after expressing concerns over consumption, hours of service, and when lifeguards would be on duty.
City Councilman Anthony Eramo was the lone dissenter.
“It is a defining moment for the city and the vision we share for the boardwalk and the beach,” Councilwoman Chumi Diamond said. “The boardwalk must be protected and I vote no.”
Councilman Scott Mandel said he was concerned about the position it would put the city in to have leases with different conditions and liabilities.
The council voted as a crowd of more than 300 — nearly evenly split between supporters and opponents — packed the chambers. The proposal would have amended the city code to allow restaurant owners to seek liquor licenses from the state and apply to amend their lease in city-owned concessions stands built on the boardwalk last year.
Had the proposal passed, the city would have still been able to regulate alcohol sales from the businesses and continue a ban on open containers or alcohol elsewhere on the boardwalk or the beach.
Before the council voted, members expressed concerns about the ramifications of allowing alcohol in boardwalk restaurants.
“What is the liability on the city? This really brings the city government into the sales of alcohol,” City Council President Len Torres said.
Two of the four businesses currently occupying the boardwalk had requested alcohol sales, which led to the proposal. The owners of Beach Local Cafe at Grand Boulevard and Riptides at Edwards Boulevard have asked the city for licenses to serve alcohol with dinner.
Chamber of Commerce members endorsed alcohol sales, although some businesses expressed concern the sales could take away from storefront restaurants.
“The perception is the boardwalk will be booze filled and cups all over the place. It’s not the case,” Chamber Member Jamie Lynch said. “When the boardwalk was built, the overall majority of people said they wanted to see alcohol sold on the boardwalk.”
Opposition was led by the Long Beach Aware organization, which monitors and seeks to deter underage drinking.
Long Beach Aware Director Judi Vining said the density of businesses selling alcohol increases the likelihood of underage drinking.
“What is the benefit in the City of Long Beach for doing this?“ Vining said. “This change will forever change the city.”
Beach Local Cafe Co-owner Kelly Sullivan had suggested raising the legal drinking age on the boardwalk to 23, setting closing time by 10 p.m., and enforcing open container laws.
“We just want to make sure it’s clear we’re not going to have nightclubs on the Boardwalk. There’s not going to be a bar,” Sullivan told the council members before the vote.
Other residents raised concerns that serving alcohol would put beachgoers at risk, overcrowding the boardwalk and affecting bicyclists.