Planning Commission Further Cuts Luxe Lounge Hours, Landlord Moves to Evict Them
August 29, 2012
Late-night dancers will need to look for a new place to groove in the wee hours. The Monterey Planning Commission voted 6-0 on Tuesday to cut Luxe Lounge's hours.
But those reduced hours may not even take effect: The landlord, Marotta Properties, has issued an eviction notice.
The Planning Commission upheld city staff's recommendation, requiring the Luxe to cut off alcohol sales and live music at 10:30pm, stop letting new customers in at 11, and close at 11:30pm. They're the same restrictions city staff recommended in June, but the Planning Commission instead adopted softer restrictions and moved closing time back from 2am to 1:30am.
"What I would like to see is all of our night spots operating in a safe and professional manner," Planning Commissioner Bill McCrone says. "If the operator is professional and does his job, it’s not a problem.
"What we had at the Luxe is an operator who was slow to respond to complaints, and he really didn't have the expertise or desire to remedy the problem."
Owner Dennis Barwick also owns the adjacent restaurant businesses, Bellagio Pizzeria and Habanero's Grill, at the corner of Tyler and Franklin streets. Barwick was not immediately available for comment Wednesday afternoon, but has publicly stated his doubts that violent incidents in and around the Luxe are related to his business operations.
The city notified Barwick in May that were declaring the club a public nuisance due to the crime volume. From July 2011 to February 2012, Monterey PD made 24 arrests for fighting, assaults, public intoxication and damage to a police car.
The Planning Commission revisited the restrictions after two Aug. 5 incidents. In one, a 17-year-old girl, who allegedly entered with a fake ID, slapped another woman and a fight escalated, involving her boyfriend, who is a gang member.
Later that night, about an hour after Luxe closed, two Seaside gang members were stabbed in the Bank of America parking lot nearby. Police believe the assailants and victims had traded gang slogans at each other earlier in the night in the club.
The new dress code, intended to dissuade gang members from partying at Luxe, prohibits visible tattoos and tennis shoes.
Recent Yelp reviews for the Luxe are mostly negative, with comments like, "This place is an amorphous mess of a venue" and this one posted in January: "This is a very dangerous place. Gang members from Salinas to King City infest this establishment looking for innocent unsuspecting victims."
McCrone had hoped the earlier closing time previously approved would improve the situation, which had accommodated Barwick's business model. "That late-night crowd coming in for dancing and not showing up until 11:30," he says, "that was part of his business plan that I don’t think was very professional."
He adds the restrictions on the Luxe are not representative of a more sweeping direction. "There's no move to roll up the sidewalks at midnight," says McCrone, who is also running for City Council this November. "There are some people on city administration who I think might like to see that, but I’m that one of them.
"A vibrant nightlife is important and valuable to the city."
A report by Monterey Principal Planner Kimberly Cole found the Luxe to be responsible for the greatest proportion of 72 incidents at eight clubs and bars reported so far in 2012. The top findings:
Luxe: 20 incidents (28 percent) Britannia Arms: 14 incidents (19 percent) Blue Fin: 11 incidents (15 percent) The Mucky Duck: 8 (11 percent)