DOWNEY – Wary of its close proximity to nearby homes, the City Council on Tuesday unanimously rejected a request by a south Downey bar and lounge to host mariachis, DJs and other forms of live entertainment. Owners of the Wet Bar offered to sound-proof residents’ windows, install trees, and try other noise-reducing efforts, but council members were concerned that the bar would be disruptive to the local neighborhood.
They also were apprehensive after the bar was twice caught with live entertainment even after a warning from police.
“In my gut, in my heart of hearts, I see this being a problem,” Mayor Fernando Vasquez said in rejecting the appeal.
Located at the southwest corner of Lakewood Boulevard and Imperial Highway, the Wet Bar opened in 2012 with a liquor license.
Despite not having a live entertainment permit, local residents and police allege the Wet Bar hosted live bands and DJs, and the sounds filtered into nearby neighborhoods.
Only 36 feet separates the rear of the bar and a row of homes accessed by a private driveway.
Residents also complained of rowdy customers, public urination, suspected drug use, and illegally parked cars.
Lt. Leslie Murray of the Downey Police Department said police officers responded to the Wet Bar 27 times between May 2013 and March of this year for a range of incidents, from fights, car burglaries and disorderly conduct.
Luis Gomez and Osvaldo Flores, however, owners of the Wet Bar, said they were willing to work with the city to alleviate concerns. They offered to hire a security company staffed by law enforcement personnel and develop a security plan in conjunction with the police department.
Gomez said he would also install sound-proofing material in his building and offered to pay for sound-proof windows for affected homes. He also said there would be no live entertainment on Sundays.
“Pretty much all my retirement has been invested into this business,” said Gomez, who also lives in Downey. “We’ve put well over $1 million into the place.”
At its peak, Gomez said he employed 40 people at the bar when he hosted unpermitted live entertainment. Without live music or DJs, business has slowed and he is down to five workers, he said.
“Without a (live entertainment) permit, I guarantee they’ll go out of business,” said property owner David Gonsalves.
Councilman Roger Brossmer expressed sympathy at the Wet Bar’s plight – and even leveled criticism at the city for approving a bar so close to homes in the first place.
“It’s mind boggling to me that we couldn’t anticipate this problem,” said Brossmer, who spent eight years on Downey’s Planning Commission. “If you’re 35 feet from a home’s window, it just doesn’t work. It doesn’t have to be live music; it could be people getting in and out of their cars. Thirty-five feet doesn’t work.”
“I don’t think you can have a more business-friendly council,” added Councilman Mario Guerra. “We are business-friendly, but we’re also more resident-friendly than not...to grant this would go against the residents and my better judgment.”
The Planning Commission rejected the Wet Bar’s live entertainment application last May after 57 residents signed a petition opposed to the permit.
The Wet Bar appealed the decision to the City Council.
“This is the south side of Downey, but we’re not trying to cut any corners,” Gomez told the Patriot in 2012, shortly after the bar’s opening. “Individuals we know say this bar belongs in Studio City, but there’s a lot of potential here. Downey will benefit from something like this.”
Published: Aug. 28, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 20