The City Council agreed at its meeting Tuesday night to allow 1515 Restaurant Bar and Lounge to extend its hours to 1 a.m. after hearing from Tony and Jack Dudum, the son-and-father owners. Tony and Jack Dudum, and their supporters, made the case that the city should support local business owners in light of the tough economy.
The Dudums said that their North Main Street business, which serves food and dispenses cocktails, beer, wine (containing the drug, alcohol), is a classy operation that caters to a more mature, upscale crowd—unlike, I suppose, other bars and clubs that cater to wild, drunken 20somethings. As in their appearance at the July 23 Planning Commission meeting, the Dudum duo talked about their profile in the community; being long-time local residents who care about Walnut Creek and its success, and of their desire to give back to the community by hosting charitable events.
The Council was amenable to allowing 1515 to extend its hours from 12:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. after the Dudums rescinded their request to stay open until 1:45 and to provide dancing and live entertainment. The Dudums agreed to scale back their appeal as a way of showing good faith in working with the city, which, by the way, is in the midst of trying to figure out—through a task force—how it regulates and polices all its liquor-dispensing restaurants and clubs in downtown.
And, yes, I’m sure I’ll get some flak for referring to 1515 as dispensing “mind-altering” substances. Then again, what is alcohol, if not a mind-altering substance?
As I’ve said before, it’s my drug of choice, and I’ll even be at Walnut Creek’s Fall Wine Walk this evening, tasting some nice wine—that’s right, ingesting my drug of choice—at this Downtown Business Association-hosted fundraiser for local schools.
And, sure, I bet you can see where I’ll be heading now and in the future with this debate about the presence of Walnut Creek’s medical marijuana dispensary, C3 Collective.
Onto the C3 Collective issue, in which the Council voted to set up a staff “work group” to study options for regulating medical marijuana dispensaries in town.
Last night’s discussion brought out quite a crowd of speakers, including a gentleman who said that he would soon submit an application to the city to open a second pot club in town.
Most of the other speakers were medical cannabis users, and most lived in Walnut Creek or nearby towns. Two were Rossmoor residents, who said that C3 Collective, which opened this summer on Oakland Boulevard, offers an important product for locals who suffer chronic pain and other discomfort from cancer and other medical conditions. Some said they would prefer to use marijuana to alleviate their pain symptoms than more “toxic” mainstream drugs like Vicodin and Oxycontin.
One speaker, who lives in the neighborhood around Oakland Boulevard, expressed concern about the nuisance crime and riff-raff this dispensary might attract.
But another speaker pointed out—rightly—that 1515 Restaurant and other alcohol-dispensing establishments in downtown had long attracted their share of riff-raff and nuisance crimes. In fact, in the city staff report for Tuesday night’s City Council consideration of 1515 Restaurant’s appeal, police noted that riffraff and nuisance behavior at 1515 in a month-long period had required police attention a total of seven times.
In one case, agents from the state Alcoholic Beverage Control (what were they doing at 1515, by the way?) arrested a customer for public intoxication and had to call police when other drunken customers tried to interfere with the arrest. In another case, in late July, a resident called to say that he had to go to 1515 to pick up his very boozed-up daughter, who could no longer speak or walk and had to be carried to the car. The man said the 1515 staff had over-served his daughter.
So far, according to C3 Collective staff, police have not had to respond to their dispensary for such incidents. And C3 CEO Brian Hyman has insisted, at the Council meeting, and in a conversation with yours truly, that he operates within the state Justice Department guidelines for medical cannabis dispensaries. He adds that more than 60 percent of his clients are 40 years and older and 35 percent are women. Fewer than 10 percent are under the age of 21, and he mentioned a couple of incidents in which local teenagers, armed not with marijuana prescriptions but just with driver’s licenses—duh!—tried to come into C3 Collective and buy pot. They were politely turned away.
Well, the presence of C3 Collective raises a whole host of issues that the city must study—legal, zoning, crime, and the overall appropriateness of such a business in the city. The staff will take several months to complete their study, completing it, at the earliest, in March. The results should help the Council make a final decision on whether to allow C3 Collective or any other dispensary to set up shop in town.
This lengthy time frame disappointed C3 supporters, because legally, C3 must suspend its operations until it receives approval from the City Council to dispense its brand of medications. However, C3 CEO Brian Hyman vowed to stay open, at a cost of $500 a day in fines. He said he can’t let down his club members, medical patients, he says, who depend on his product to stay pain free and to function in their daily lives.
In their testimonials in favor of C3, supporters pointed out that Walnut Creek is an East Bay center for the health care industry, with our two large hospitals, John Muir and Kaiser Permanente. Why, they wondered, can’t Walnut Creek take the lead on this medical marijuana issue, be at the forefront of cities around the state in finding ways to accommodate legitimate, legally-compliant medical pot clubs—which are allowed under the state voter-approved Proposition 215.
To them, the debate over C3 represents important questions about people’s rights to gain access to medication. C3 is not in the business of peddling mind-altering substances for recreational use—unlike, say 1515 Restaurant, or any restaurant or bar in town, classy and upscale or not.