Walnut Creek to consider alcohol violence crackdown

The Walnut Creek City Council will begin considering a plan to crackdown on alcohol-related violence.

January 18, 2011 6:58:28 PM PST
Walnut Creek is dealing with a problem usually seen in big, urban cities -- public drunkenness and fights on the streets when the bars and clubs close. Tonight, the City Council is meeting over new rules to stop those potentially dangerous problems.

Police officers are equipped to handle the problem on most weekend nights when the bars and restaurants let out. But if more businesses are allowed to stay open later, that may change.

The city's police chief Joel Bryden says fights and public drunkenness are very common on Friday and Saturday. One brawl in November was caught on camera and posted on YouTube. Police say they were simply outnumbered.

Most or all of our officers were at another fight, at another location, there was a large group of people. So we were unable to get to that second fight immediately," he said.

But it wasn't the fights after the bars and restaurants let out that prompted the City Council to consider new late night rules, it was actually because a number of business owners requested permits to stay open even later, like many older establishments in town do. Now, City Hall may crackdown on everyone and in some cases, bars could be forced to closer earlier. Closing hours could be staggered more than they already are and others could have stricter rules to follow.

"You would have performance standards to meet and if you were not meeting those performance standards, you could be come in a hearing process and perhaps lose some of your privileges," Walnut Cree Mayor Cindy Silva said.

"The only people they're going after are after 11 p.m. bars," Crogan's Bar owner Patsy Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson bar says businesses like hers are being unfairly targeted. She already has additional security and closes before 2 a.m. because there's dancing on the weekend, and feels more regulations could hurt the economy.

"The city has become a destination for a lot of different things, but you can't cut it off, you can't say 'well, we're only going to be a destination place 24/12,'" she said.

It will be months at the earliest, before these rules are finalized. Silva says City Hall needs to find the right balance between helping businesses here to thrive and maintaining public safety.