The city of Folsom has the authority to create entertainment districts, but there are no plans to create one in the Historic District in the near future, officials say.
“If the business owners do what they say they are going to do – clean up their act – they have another chance,” said Mayor Steve Miklos.
“We’re the last city in the region to create an entertainment district. Whether we go ahead is up to them – they’re pulling the card of destiny.”
Businesses on Sutter Street that offer entertainment say the measure is not necessary.
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“This took us off guard because the problems we have now is considerably less than two years ago,” said Edward Auel, manager of Hacienda del Rio Restaurant and Cantina, which would fall under the law’s purview if the Historic District is designated as an entertainment district.
“We say ‘yes’ if they ask us to do something, so I’m not sure why they need to pass this ordinance,” he said. “I don’t think another permit – to pay more money for something – and more rules are the direction that we should be going in.”
Tuesday night, the City Council unanimously approved a measure that would give the city authority to create entertainment districts by resolution. The move would give the city a way to crack down on unruly patrons of venues that offer entertainment.
The ordinance was prompted by the many complaints of noise and crime in the Historic District in the last two years. A number of bars, restaurants and hotels on Sutter Street offer entertainment, much to the dismay of nearby residents who have had to contend with unruly behavior of those venues’ patrons. The problems have intensified since 2011, when the city revitalized Sutter Street.
“All the police chiefs have been very clear on what they (the businesses) need to do,” Miklos said. “They are mostly cooperative, but every now and then, they go back to what they were told not to do.”
He said he believes that the city has been lenient about the lapses of those establishments in the past three to four years.
“The police have given us reports regularly that they do this (have lapses) frequently,” Miklos said. “We have to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ We’re to the point where we feel we need to put this in place in case we need to take the next step.”
Under the new law, once an area is designated an entertainment district, all businesses would have 30 days to apply for permit before they can offer entertainment. To receive the permit, they would have to comply with certain conditions that the city sets. The City Council can define what constitutes entertainment, set hours of operations for entertainment, require a “responsible person” to be on the premises at all times when entertainment is provided, and have the venues detail their plans to deal with security, underage drinking and crowd control. If they offer entertainment without a permit, then they are fined. A permit can also be modified, suspended or revoked if certain conditions are not met. Certain activities are exempt, such as those events organized by the city or nonprofit organizations.
Auel said the new law gives the City Council too much power in setting rules and conditions.
“It does not state what the rules are going to be – it’s a little too ambiguous,’ he said, adding that the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control already requires what the new ordinance does. We want to do anything that we can to help, but we don’t think passing a new law is the way to go.”
He noted that two years ago, his business used to meet with the police and residents every other month to discuss problems, but those meetings have been occurring less frequently.
“It’s not that we don’t feel that these problems are important –we think they are very important –but in the last couple of years, that has gotten a lot better,” he said.
Auel said he and other venues that offer entertainment are thinking of making some changes to head off the creation of an entertainment district. “I do know that we are going to rebrand what we do for Tuesday nights,” he said. “We just have a DJ and people dance, so we’re not sure what we’re going to do. We will work with the city and see what they like.”
Miklos said he welcomes the changes that some of the venues are considering. “I’m really hoping that we keep the dialogue going and the positive changes,” he said. “All I want is cooperation. I’m not a big government person.”
He said that could change if he hears from Folsom police that the area continues to have problems.
“If my police chief comes to me in a month and says, ‘nothing’s changed,’ then I will be the first one to put it on the agenda,” he said. “The health, safety and welfare of the community comes first before the bottom line.”