The City Council on Tuesday is expected to reject an appeal of the city’s decision to allow an operator at the Junipero Beach concession stand to sell alcohol.
The Planning Commission voted in July to grant Saltwater Deck, which has operated the Junipero Beach concession stand since 2021, a conditional use permit to sell beer, wine, champagne and wine-based cocktails.
An appeal challenging that vote was quickly filed by residents opposed to alcohol sales being allowed on the beach and Saltwater Deck’s proximity to a playground.
Melinda Cotton, one of the two parties who filed an appeal, said that the issue should have been vetted by the city’s Parks, Recreation and Marine department as well as the Marine Advisory Commissions to allow more public input.
“They were not vetted by the mayor’s own commissions whose assignment is the beach,” Cotton said in an interview Tuesday.
A city memo said that those commissions were not part of the permit process because they don’t have the authority over alcohol licensing.
Cotton said that allowing alcohol sales on the beach was “totally inappropriate” and said that there were other options for people looking to grab a drink near the beach, like Claire’s at the Museum or Belmont Brewing Company.
City staff is recommending the council deny the appeal and allow the location to move forward with alcohol sales. In a letter to city management, Christopher Koontz, acting director of Development Services, said that the conditions of the permit would ensure responsible and safe consumption of alcohol and that its location near a playground was not atypical of similar businesses in the city.
“Within the city’s built environment, it is not unusual for alcohol-serving establishments to be located near city parks and facilities,” Koontz said.
Koontz said in July that events like concerts, the Grand Prix and the annual Pride celebration are allowed to serve alcohol on or near city beaches and parks.
The conditional use permit that was granted to Saltwater Deck in July has limitations on when and how the business can sell alcohol. Patrons would be required to buy food in order to order alcohol and sales would be limited to between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m..
Alcoholic beverages would have to be served in recognizable clear cups and Saltwater Deck would have to prove that alcohol sales don’t exceed food sales every quarter.
People who do order alcohol would have to drink their beverages inside a roped-off area in the sand adjacent to its storefront that Saltwater Deck uses for people who are dining on-site.
While some commissioners expressed concerns about allowing alcohol sales at the beach, the restrictions of the permit, specifically requiring the purchase of food, led to the permit being approved in a 4-2 vote.
Saltwater Deck is one of three businesses that won bids to operate newly renovated concession stands along the city’s coastline. Gaucho Grill, which will operate the larger Alamitos Beach concession stand, was previously awarded a permit to sell alcohol and distilled spirits once it opens its doors to the public.