Steins proprietor Ted Kim sought the overturn of restrictions on his outdoor beer garden, which would have to close at 6 p.m. half the year and 8 p.m. the other half, according to a May 9 zoning administrator decision which cited neighbor's noise concerns. Kim said his restaurant, slated for the former home of Golden Wok at 895 Villa Street, would not be viable if the "focal point" beer garden had to shut down before normal dinner hours were over.
"I think the zoning administrator went slightly overboard in closing at 6," said council member Ronit Bryant. "That seems a little early."
Council members allowed a 10 p.m. closing time for the patio Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights. Members Laura Macias and John Inks even supported allowing more than 64 seats on the patio, but no vote on that issue was taken.
Complaints from a handful of neighbors about potential noise from the beer garden stirred interest in the issue among downtown residents, foodies and beer enthusiasts, 14 of whom spoke in support, expressing excitement over the quality food and high-end beers that have been promised.
Kim said he felt all the news coverage and discussion among downtown residents about the conflict over the beer garden was emblematic of greater discussion about how downtown should develop in the future. Some wondered why the neighbors had moved to a busy downtown area only to complain about noise, "like people buying near the airport and wanting the airport to move."
"Imagine if your neighbor decided to have a barbecue every night of the year, that's how I feel," said Michelle Lin, one of six opponents who live across the street and spoke against the project.
The neighbors had included in their complaints issues with the Monte Carlo night club, perhaps downtown's most loathed business, which lets out at 2 a.m. and whose customers are said to litter, urinate and fight near the neighbors' homes.
"Residents probably wouldn't be protesting at all if it weren't for the 2 a.m. problem," Lin said, referring to the night club patrons. "We are hypersensitive."
"Complaints about the night club are a separate issue we have to deal with on its own," said council member Margaret Abe-Koga, a statement later echoed by other council members.
A study found that there would be some increase in noise because of the patio but that it paled in comparison with the noise from car traffic, which helped create an average of 85 decibels in peak noise and a high of 135 db, said noise engineer Robert King.
"There's clearly a lot of activity going on in this neighborhood," King said. "A person living in that building is affected by where they are living, there's no way around it."
Council member Siegel noted that neighbors had moved in to 230 Bryant when the restaurant's patio was not used for outdoor dining. He called for a special six-month review of the restaurant to see if neighbors were impacted by the noise. But other members said the city's existing processes for complaints were adequate, though zoning administrator Peter Gilli told the council that something "pretty extreme" would have to happen to cause the permit for the patio to be revoked.
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