Is longtime Sacramento watering hole caught in parent trap?
03/29/2014 12:00 AM
03/29/2014 9:45 AM
Over the years, the longtime Sacramento watering hole known as The Trap has faced many a threat, most notably from building inspectors. Patrons and its owners now find itself facing a news menace: schoolchildren.
The arrival of dirt movers last week provided final confirmation that the on-again, off-again plan to build a school on the 5.13 acre property surrounding the bar was on – again.
The plan, approved unanimously by Sacramento’s planning commission last year, calls for the private, nonreligious K-8 Brookfield School to move 2.5 miles from its current location within B’nai Israel Synagogue near Land Park to its new campus surrounding The Trap. Construction is underway.
Turns out it’s easier to build a school next to a bar, than vice versa. While not prohibited, state law allows local governments the right to apply restrictions on the operation of a bar being situated near an existing school.
“I’m worried about the restrictions a school can put on my bar,” said Veronica Crudo, one of the owners. “A school and a bar are a bad mix.”
The Trap, which dates back to 1860, was spared closure by city building inspectors in 2008. In 2009 it was certified as a historic landmark, protecting the building, but not its existence as a bar. The bar has seen better days. Its walls and floor lean. Its once-illuminated marquee is dead. Its courtyard: rustic.
School officials say proximity to a bar wasn’t on their new site wish list, but the property provides the best location to satisfy the desire to expand and operate a campus of their own.
“There are parents that have asked the question, ‘Do you think that is the best choice?’ ” said John Sittner, who bought the school in 2004.
But he said the two establishments can peacefully coexist. The school layout seeks to minimize conflict, with a parking lot, drop-off zone and a fence separating the school’s classrooms from the bar. But with the bar open from 10 a.m. until 2 a.m. there is some chance of interaction between patrons and students. Law enforcement officials said the bar operation results in relatively few police calls.
Brookfield has a student body of about 150 students in its accelerated academic program. The classrooms within B’nai Israel are not air conditioned and teachers have to walk students to Land Park for play time.
The new school will add a preschool program and increase the student population to 390 once the project is complete. Sittner said they hoped to have the first $4 million 18,500-square-foot phase done by Sept. 8. Phase two, date uncertain, will complete the project with another 9,500 square feet.
Sacramento City Councilman Steve Hansen called the project a major investment that will be a huge benefit to the community.
“It’s a wonderful place for it, with the one caveat that we have to help them be good neighbors,” said Hansen.
Brookfield parent Bella Bzoskie said the school has “exceeded expectations” and while the proximity of the bar is a little unusual, she’s happy about the planned move.
“It would be better if it wasn’t there, but it won’t cause me not to send my kid there,” said Bzoskie, whose son just finished his first year at the school.
Mary Gonsalves Kinney said she also is thrilled about the education her two kids , ages 6 and 7, are getting and will “take the good with the bad” in the move.
“I’m really excited about this new campus,” said Kenny, acknowledging her bias: Her mother is the principal, Jo Gonsalves.
Crudo, a credentialed teacher who inherited her share of the bar with the 2010 death of her father, said her concern isn’t immediate action but that tension could cause parents to take some sort of action against The Trap.
“You can’t predict what is going to happen at a bar,” Crudo said. “I’d be silly not to worry about what is going to happen down the road.”
Some of Crudo’s patrons, including MBA student Hawk McGuire, share her concerns.
“It’s a poor location,” McGuire said. “Would you really want to pick up your kid from behind a bar?”
Kinney said open communication can defuse any tension.
“Lots of things are possible,” Kinney said. “But I don’t think the parents are interested in shutting down a business just because they serve alcohol.”
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