Dancing and late nights are back at Woody’s Wharf restaurant after a Newport Beach City Council vote this week.
Council approved permit amendments 4-3 Tuesday that would allow for more nights of dancing, later patio hours, and earlier opening hours.
The council also agreed to pay $355,000 as part of a settlement with Woody‘s during a closed session on Tuesday.
Mayor Pro Tem Diane Dixon and councilmen Keith Curry and Tony Petros dissented on both votes.
The amendments allow Woody’s to open earlier, 9:30 a.m. instead of 10 a.m., daily, and close later, 2 a.m. instead of 11 p.m., on Thursdays and 12 additional nights per year. Dancing inside the restaurant is also now allowed on Thursday nights and up to 12 additional days per year.
The changes also include allowing smoking, drinking and eating in the outdoor area on the east side of the building, adjacent to the boat dock ramp, until 8 p.m.
A handful of residents spoke during public comment on the item, all in opposition.
Mayor Pro Tem Diane Dixon, whose district covers the peninsula, said she sided with the residents on this issue.
“When I ran for City Council a year ago, I ran on a platform to listen to the residents, I also ran with others who voiced that same commitment,” she noted. Her aim is to “protect and enhance quality of life.”
“Who needs to dance until 2 a.m. on a Thursday night?” Dixon questioned.
The residents have complained and this will negatively impact them, she explained her “no” vote.
Also, most of the people in support of Woody’s are not local residents, Dixon added.
The area already has a lot of alcohol related crime and police calls for service, noted Balboa Peninsula resident Kent Stoddard.
“This is ludicrous,” Stoddard said. “It’s irresponsible and it shows Woody’s complete indifference to the area’s problems.”
Allowing Woody’s to expand will only make the situation worse, he added.
“You can be part of the solution by standing up against this reckless and unreasonable amendment and take a step by improving this area,” Stoddard noted, “or the city can once again give in to Woody’s, allowing it’s nightclub operation to run virtually uncontrolled and allowing the area to degrade even further.”
The council will be bear part of the blame for the negative consequences that will result in approval of the amendment, he added.
Most of the time, the noise from Woody’s is acceptable, commented another peninsula resident, Norm Einhorn. But there are times when he’ll hear a “blast” of noise late at night and into the early morning hours, he commented. To allow another day of late night dancing and music is “unacceptable,” he added.
They thought it would be a restaurant that served liquor, not a nightclub, Einhorn argued.
“That’s not fair,” for the nearby residents, he said.
Roger Diamond, an attorney representing Woody’s, disagreed.
“The fact of the matter is, it doesn’t create a noise problem,” Diamond stated. “We are good neighbors.”
They don’t agree with the noise complaints from the opponents, Diamond said, adding that there were several other people who are on board with the idea.
“My client is not immune to the noise laws of the city of Newport Beach and will obviously honor all municipal code provisions regarding noise,” Diamond said. “We’re not asking for any exemption.”
Dixon said she’d like to see Woody’s become a “good operator” and work with the peninsula residents. But there always seem to be complaints. Reporting violations shouldn’t be the burden of residents, she continued.
She also suggested Woody’s voluntarily agree to a city-sponsored noise study, to be done quarterly for at least the first year or two.
On the other side of the issue, Councilman Kevin Muldoon commented that the city and previous council are at fault.
The city essentially “swallowed up” Woody’s Wharf, Muldoon said. There were a lot legal complications that the city and previous council were entangled in with Woody’s, he noted.
The legal battle with Woody’s started when the Planning Commission approved a permit for later hours and dancing in 2013, explained Michael Torres, Assistant City Attorney.
Then-councilman Mike Henn called to review the decision and the City Council reversed the Planning Commission’s vote. It then went on to Orange County Superior Court, who sided with the council. It finally went to appellate court and was overturned, partly because they felt the city didn’t follow the correct procedural steps to call the item up for review and potential bias from Henn.
By that time, it had cost the city more than $100,000 in court costs, Torres said.
The city filed a petition with the California Supreme Court, but later withdrew it and entered into settlement negotiations with Woody’s.
“And here we are today,” Torres said.
The owners almost lost their business because the council had shown “such egregious bias” against Woody’s, Muldoon said. They were singled out, he added.
“The story of Woody’s is almost a tragedy,” Muldoon said.