Fullerton City Council voted 5-0 Aug. 15 to approve a Resolution of Intent to address a proposition to change the maximum occupancy of downtown bars.
Changes to the downtown occupancy restrictions have procedural hurdles to overcome before they are enacted.
“We need more information. We have a lot of questions about how we can better regulate these businesses, and I think we need those answers,” said Councilman Greg Sebourn.
Many downtown Fullerton business owners have requested the City Council approve changes to lower restrictions at many of their establishments. Currently, downtown bars are subject to a requirement stating that one person be allowed for every 15 square feet available for the building’s maximum occupancy. If approved, the maximum occupancy requirement would match the California law, totalling one person for every 7 square feet.
Bar owners are claiming damages to their business because restrictions are driving customers to neighboring cities.
“We’re just asking for a chance to compete. We’re asking leadership to step up and give us the opportunity to help Fullerton grow,” said Joe Florentine, owner of Florentine’s Grill.
Many complaints have piled up over the years about the downtown Fullerton bar scene. Fights, vandalism and public drunkenness are some of the problems associated with downtown. Citizens are worried that increasing the maximum occupancy downtown will worsen these problems.
“There are reports of overcrowding of bars and forced closures, which means, to me, the internal controls for these bars have failed … So why do we wish to exacerbate this situation by permitting more crowds in bars,” said Fullerton resident Tony Package.
However, many bar owners and managers believe raising the maximum occupancy will help alleviate those problems.
Dave Dennis, general manager of the Matador Cantina, believes customers can be better managed if they are inside a bar instead of waiting in the street.
“(Because of the law) you have more people standing in line out in the street … causing problems out there,” he said.