Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - October 28, 2011

Nightlife in downtown Pleasanton

After years of bickering over regulations affecting allowable noise, late-night hours and other issues affecting downtown entertainment and night life in Pleasanton, the City Council has formed a Hospitality Guidelines task force to address key elements in creating a responsible environment for downtown vitality. Businesses in the downtown provide a large percentage of sales and property tax revenue, and are a major force in attracting shoppers, home buyers and business investment to our city. Downtown streets that lack any activity after 8 p.m. or have night life that's too rowdy lack appeal to those within the city and from nearby towns. They soon start going elsewhere.

As a foundation for its work, the new task force will consider the Responsible Hospitality Institute's six key elements to a successful hospitality district. These are public safety, music and entertainment, multi-use sidewalks for events and outdoor restaurants seating, quality of life, transportation and venue safety and security.

Hospitality has become more competitive as cities realize the benefits of supporting safe, inviting public spaces. Surveys show that fewer in suburban cities the size of Pleasanton travel regularly to nearby big city hubs, such as San Francisco, Oakland or the Peninsula, preferring, instead, to stay closer to home. Changes in job patterns with less of the working population confined to traditional 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. jobs, telecommuting opportunities, travel costs and more concern over driving after drinking just a little are steering us to shop, dine and have fun close to home. All of this has an economic benefit both for those who live here and for restaurants, shops and clubs that serve the local population.

Among the priorities of the Hospitality Guidelines task force will be to determine if downtown as a whole or a smaller section or several sections of it should be tagged hospitality districts. If so, what are the rules? Up to now, a restaurant seeking an operating permit in Pleasanton has an easier time if it closes by 10 p.m. If it serves alcoholic beverages and stays open past 10, it's classified as a bar with much tougher restrictions. Some of these businesses have permits allowing them to stay open to 1 or 2 a.m., mainly on weekend nights; others must close earlier. There's little consistency, which the task force hopes to resolve. Noise levels vary, often by the number of complaints filed with police. A restaurant on First Street two years ago closed its doors for lack of late night business after complaints from residents on the other side of First.

Members of the new task force are Councilmen Matt Sullivan and Jerry Thorne, Planning Commissioners Kathy Narum and Jerry Pentin, Pleasanton Downtown Association representatives Michael Hosterman and Melanie Sadek, and those chosen as "at large" members: Christine Bourg, Kathleen Dlugosh, Jon Harvey, Peter MacDonald and Lori Rice. Their next meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 17, with meetings following at 6:30 p.m. on the first Thursdays of the month. The meetings are open to the public. This is everyone's chance to chime in on entertainment and night life in Pleasanton's downtown.

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