The City Council voted 4 to 1 to allow 1515 Restaurant and Lounge to keep its 1 a.m. closing time, despite concerns raised by city staff and the police department about late-night incidents that required police response.
The council’s decision came after son and father owners Tony and Jack Dudum spoke about the value their North Main Street establishment brings to downtown. “We’ve tried best to obey the rules,” Tony Dudum said. “We are a destination, one of the premiere spots of the city.”
Family members, friends, and regular customers also came out on a Tuesday, “away from American Idol” and “family," Tony Dudum said, to sing the praises of the Dudums and 1515.
The City Council allowed the Dudums to stay open until 1 a.m. for a six-month probationary period. City staff wanted that closing time to be rolled back to 12:30 a.m. In their report, staff said the restaurant didn’t do well enough to be granted the 1 a.m. closing time permanently. There were eight incidents requiring a police response. These incidents include an assault, two thefts, someone being arrested on a warrant, another patron being arrested for public drunkenness, and the restaurant's valet parking cars in handicapped spaces. In February, 1515 employees were caught drinking in the back of the restaurant.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Chief Joel Bryden suggested that these types of incidents are typical of downtown bars and restaurants that stay open late. He said that these types of incidents are more of what you’ll find at a bar, where the chief service is to serve alcohol, not a restaurant, where food is the focus.
He added that 1515 does do a good job running its business. His department’s concern about letting 1515 stay open until 1 a.m. instead of 12:30 is that there will be “30 more minutes of potential problems that we in the police department are going to have to deal with.”
Lt. Mark Covington said the police department is at its limit in the number of calls they can handle among the downtown’s late-night bar scene. “We can’t deal with any more additional calls.”
The Dudums and their supporters complained that they were being singled out and “set up for failure.” Some even suggested that officers were showing at the restaurant at random times and making customers feel uncomfortable.
This debate about 1515 comes as the city wrestles with how to balance public safety and against the desire to encourage commerce in Walnut Creek and to keep the downtown a happening Bay Area destination for dining and entertainment.
Four of the council members voted to allow 1515 to stay open until 1 a.m. They said the didn’t want to unfairly penalize for 1515 for violations that may be just as common or more common at other establishments. They also didn’t want to roll back the business’ hours at this one establishment when the results of an Alcohol Task Force study on the downtown bar scene is pending.
Councilman Kish Rajan said: "I fully appreciate the needs of our police department and am committed to improving the environment downtown to support them in their mission. In my view, that is best achieved by looking at the downtown as a whole, and our overall alcohol/ closing time policies. We need a clearer set of policies that better balance the needs of our police with our desire for a successful business climate"
Only Councilman Bob Simmons said he would not support the 1 a.m. closing time. This is because, he said, back in September, the police department presented a list of incidents at 1515 that required police response. The council’s position was zero-tolerance and that 1515 shouldn’t return after the probationary period “with another sheet of incidents" He added: "Tonight we have more.”
He also objected to supporters’ claims that some of the incidents were “not so bad.” I reject that notion,” he said. “We want the city to be known as a safe place for people to come and enjoy.”