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Cabaret licensing in Sunnyside extended to owners of dance halls

Building owners in Sunnyside who rent out their halls for celebrations that include dancing and alcoholic beverages must now purchase a cabaret license.

That's according to an ordinance that a divided Sunnyside City Council approved last night.

By a vote of 4-3, council approved the ordinance, which City Manager Bob Stockwell said is a way to put some of the responsibility on the building owner, instead on those renting out the facility.

Stockwell told council the new ordinance would create a "level playing field" with existing taverns, cocktail lounges and restaurants that have to purchase the annual $200 permit if they offer both alcohol and dancing.

Though the rental halls, such as Venus and Forum, do not operate dances every day like a lounge does, the city contends that owners do rent them out frequently for weddings and other celebrations with alcohol and dancing.

"From a police perspective, the availability and use of business facilities, where alcohol is permitted or consumed as part of the event, creates more police responses to the premises, leads to repeated incidents of disorderly conduct, noise complaints and complaints from neighbors," City Attorney Mark Kunkler wrote in a summary opinion presented to council.

Councilwoman Theresa Hancock is among those neighbors. She said there is a rental hall near her home and accused the owners of taking in rent receipts of $1,500 per event and then walking away, leaving those renting out the building to face complaints.

In addition to paying for a $200 cabaret license each year, building owners would also need to take steps to minimize outside noise.

Those elements of the ordinance concerned Councilman Paul Garcia, who worried that it might drive away business. He also questioned whether building owners were contacted about the ordinance.

Stockwell replied there were discussions with one or two, but nothing beyond that. He noted the ordinance did not require a public hearing. He also noted that any additional costs incurred by the building owners would likely be included in the rental fee.

Councilwoman Carol Stone felt there should be a public hearing before a decision, since the building owners would be most directly impacted.

Councilman Bruce Epps expressed general support for the ordinance, but was adamant the city should refund a $150 appeal fee to those who successfully contest a revocation of their cabaret license.

Stockwell explained the appeal fee covers administrative costs and that revoking a license seldom happens since multiple violations have to occur before that step is taken.

Epps countered, "If you're so confident in the system maybe we should go ahead and refund the appeal."

Mayor Ed Prilucik expressed support for the ordinance in its entirety, "This simply holds the property owner to some responsibility."

Stone, Epps and Garcia voted against the ordinance, which passed by a 4-3 margin. Those casting affirmative votes were Gant, Hancock, Prilucik and Jim Restucci.

In a related move, Epps later asked staff to look at revising the ordinance so that the appeal fee could be refunded for those who are successful in contesting license revocation.

Stockwell said the city is in the process now of looking at all fees and that the appeal fee would be included for consideration.

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