Last call comes too soon for bar and grill owner
Chris Mitchell is fighting for his business. The Greenstone Bar & Grill opened in June to rave reviews, but four months later the numbers have dwindled. It isn’t the food, it is the choice of beverages he is allowed to serve and when, according to Mitchell.
The restaurant’s location on the 3000 block of Harrison Avenue came with some baggage. When Mitchell applied for a beer and wine license he claims he was told there were no restrictions. Later he found that wasn’t the case. Alcohol can only be served from 6 to 10:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 6 to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Mitchell wants to increase those hours to 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week.
“I lose about 50 percent of my lunch and dinner business because of these restrictions,” Mitchell said. “I never would have chosen this site if I had known about the restrictions.”
Mitchell claims without increased hours to serve alcohol his business is threatened. Residents in the Al Tahoe Forest Homeowners’ Association say increased hours will cause parking problems around their homes and increased noise at night.
The area is not without evening activity. A block farther down on Harrison Avenue, Rojo’s restaurant and bar has been in operation since 1973.
On Friday, Mitchell brought his case before an administrative law judge. Mitchell’s original request to modify the liquor license was denied by the Alcohol Beverage Control board. The ABC board said its denial was based on objections brought in 1995, when a former tenant tried to open a topless bar. Homeowners, school and city officials protested the 1995 application. The compromise that was finally reached resulted in the time restrictions Mitchell now faces.
The Greenstone is far from a topless club. Serving New Zealand Pacific Rim cuisine, Mitchell described his restaurant as a high class dining establishment with some live entertainment and dancing. The Greenstone’s atmosphere has garnered support from some of the original protesters, but Mitchell still has some obstacles to overcome in the form of the Al Tahoe Forest Homeowners’ Association, and the owners of one residence located within 100 feet of his restaurant.
Patricia Genasci spoke Friday on behalf of herself and her 95-year-old mother, who lives year-round in the home on Los Angeles Avenue. They also protested the 1995 application. Genasci told the judge her family was disturbed Friday and Saturday nights of the July 4 weekend by people leaving the Greenstone. And despite testimony from South Lake Tahoe Associate Planner Mark Kay McLanahan as to the improved parking plans for Harrison Avenue, Genasci said she still has concerns about parking, particularly patrons parking in front of her residence. Genasci said she agreed that Mitchell should be allowed to serve beer and wine at lunch, but objected to the late night hours.
“That we have not had tremendous problems to date says nothing to the potential . . .,” Genasci said. “If you want more hours you have to prove to me that we can live as good neighbors; I’m only one person, but I’m the closest.”
McLanahan also testified that the Greenstone tested under the noise level limit for the area. In response to the residents’ noise concern Mitchell placed signs in the restaurant asking the patrons to respect the quiet of the neighbors as they were leaving.
“I don’t want to create a problem for any resident,” Mitchell said. “We’re asking for something we basically don’t think is an unreasonable request. Unless I’m able to get hours close to those the viability of my business is threatened.”
A decision on Mitchell’s request will probably not be forthcoming for more than a month.
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