By Nicholas Musumeci and Korinne Utting
On St. Patrick’s Day, businesses in Long Beach will serve alcoholic beverages to paying customers, but concessions on the boardwalk will have their doors closed.
These food stand owners recently backed a proposal that would have allowed them to renegotiate their leases, adding an adjustment that permitted them to sell alcohol. The proposal was rejected in a 4-to-1 city council vote.
Concession owners like Sean Sullivan, who own Beach Local Cafe, hoped selling alcohol would have enabled their businesses to stay open year-round, instead of just during the summer months. Their frustration has been imminent for some time, as they had been under the false impression that the city would allow them to serve alcohol.
“At this point I’m much more disappointed by the way that we got run around for the last 6 months than with the actual decision itself,” Sean Sullivan, owner of Beach Local Cafe, a concession stand on the boardwalk, said. “They wasted everyone’s time calling a public hearing, I mean it’s complete bullshit,” his wife said.
One Long Beach City Council member was, in fact, on the Sullivans’ side. And he is still disappointed in the way the vote turned out.
“In my opinion, this was a missed opportunity to slowly implement the limited sale of alcohol with an abundance of caution,” Anthony Eramo, Vice-President of the City Council, said.
A Long Beach Native, Ally Golden, who lives within walking distance of the boardwalk, was on board with the proposal but acknowledges its drawbacks. “The sale of alcohol on the beach would be great for local businesses,” Golden said. “[But] the kids in Long Beach already drink like sailors, alcohol is crazy accessible,” she conceded.
In fact, according to Long Beach Aware, a group that opposes the sale of alcohol on the boardwalk, the amount of high school students drinking alcohol in the city has seen an over 20 percent increase in two years.
“The number of establishments in a community where you can purchase alcohol is directly related to the amount of underage drinking that goes on in that community,” Judi Vining, Executive Director of Long Beach Aware, said.
The Sullivans sold their successful barbecue restaurant in order to open on the boardwalk, in hopes of one day serving alcohol. But now, almost their entire business plan has seemingly been thrown out the window. “I feel like the decision was made before we had a hearing,” Sean Sullivan said.
Even owners of local bars in Long Beach that could have ended up competing with Beach Local Cafe for patrons were rooting for the proposal to pass.
“We have a lot of cocktails that are very specific to our restaurant that no other place down here make, so I don’t think It would’ve hit our particular business badly,” Michelle Farley, manager of Jetty Bar and Grill, said.
While the movement to get alcohol on the boardwalk may be on hold for now, some of its chief proponents still hold out hope. Anthony Eramo implored locals to ponder what a summer night on the boardwalk would be like if visitors could enjoy a casual drink by the ocean.
“I think it would have been great,” Eramo said. “Cheers.”