If local businessman Ricardo Fundament gets his way, Isla Vistans will soon have another place to enjoy a cocktail.
Fundament, the owner of Dublin’s Sports Grill, applied to upgrade his liquor license approximately two years ago. The upgrade will allow him to sell hard liquor in addition to beer and wine. While Fundament said Dublin’s would provide a safe alternative to parties on Del Playa Drive and the bars on State Street, several people have opposed the application.
“It’s not about the people who consume alcohol; it’s about where they can consume it safely,” Fundament said. “I think this is the safest place to sit down and have a drink, as opposed to DP or driving to the bars.”
Ed Macias of the county’s Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) said Fundament’s application does not call for a new permit, just an upgrade of the existing one. Because Fundament did not adequately post notice of his application outside his business for 30 days, there was a re-posting period that allowed for more people to protest the license.
“Because this is a protested application, the department originally denied the application based on aggravated political problems,” Macias said. “This was based on the Sheriff’s Dept.’s protest of the application.”
Isla Vista Foot Patrol Lt. Tom McKinny said the IVFP protested Fundament’s application because the IVFP’s main focus in I.V. is the connection between alcohol and crime.
“Practically everything that happens on Friday and Saturday nights is alcohol-related,” McKinny said. “What we’ve found is that it’s easier to get drunker quicker on hard liquor.”
Fundament’s application is for an on-sale hard liquor license. An on-sale license means the liquor is served at a restaurant or bar and consumed on the premises, while off-sale licenses are for grocery stores or liquor stores where the consumer takes the liquor from the establishment. Based on population, there are only supposed to be 10 on-sale liquor licenses in I.V., but McKinny said there are already 16 I.V. restaurants that serve alcohol.
“There’s just an overconcentration of liquor licenses in I.V.,” McKinny said. “Everybody who’s not in the alcohol business seems to recognize this town is saturated.”
In early March, 3rd District Supervisor Gail Marshall sent a letter to the ABC in support of Fundament’s application.
“This on-sale permit, with the associated and appropriate conditions, can provide a reasonable and relatively safe alternative for legal-aged customers,” the letter said.
Marshall’s executive staff assistant Mark Chaconas said I.V. needs more balance in the types of businesses it attracts.
“We’re trying to enhance the downtown business area and provide people a place where they can go, sit down and have a drink with their dinner,” Chaconas said. “With an on-sale permit, Dublin’s would be a venue for people to drink responsibly, whereas off-sale permits contribute to large open parties.”
Physics Professor Harry Nelson, who lives in UCSB’s West Campus Apartments, said he protested Fundament’s application because he thinks easy access to alcohol in I.V. is an indication of a larger problem.
“Places with an overabundance of liquor licenses are generally places where planning has gone down the drain,” Nelson said. “I know people are going to drink; that’s not the issue. I’m opposing the liquor license to encourage people to get involved.”
Fundament has proposed several conditions to the permit that he said would prevent Dublin’s from becoming a dive bar. The gross sales of food would have to exceed the sales of alcohol, no happy hours or late-night drink specials would be offered and no advertisements promoting alcohol would be visible from the exterior.
However, Nelson said Fundament will not own the permit forever.
“I might support the permit if Fundament could never sell the license – if it wasn’t transferable in any way,” Nelson said. “None of those conditions apply to the next person who owns the license.”
Still, Fundament said I.V. would benefit from a restaurant where people of legal drinking age could have a cocktail with their meal.
“There are no alternatives for people,” Fundament said. “If you separate the older crowd from the younger crowd, you also reduce the availability of alcohol to minors.”
Macias said there will be a hearing on the application in early June. During the hearing, the county ABC will make a recommendation to the state ABC, all protesters of the application will be able to testify, and Fundament will be able to argue his case and bring witnesses in favor of the permit.