Toe-tapping patrons at the Roxy Restaurant, a downtown Encinitas dining institution that's been offering live music for years, soon may be permitted to get up and dance.
The city's Planning Commission agreed Sept. 6 in a 4-0 vote, with Commissioner Bruce Ehlers absent, to allow the Coast Highway 101 restaurant to remove four tables and modify its interior to create a tiny dance floor. Next, the restaurant needs a city entertainment permit and the necessary permits from the state Alcohol Beverage Control department.
The planning commissioners granted the restaurant permission to book up to three musicians for each gig, plus an occasional "sit-in" guest performer, including a 90-year-old, clarinet-playing grandpa. And, they said the place could open two hours earlier in the mornings — 6 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. — but couldn't stay open an extra hour at night, as requested.
Paula Vrakas, one of the restaurant's owners and the granddaughter of the jazz clarinet player, had asked commissioners for permission for three musicians, rather than two at a time, saying her grandpa who plays jazz likes to sit in on sessions and it's really hard to find a jazz band with only two musicians.
Vrakas also said she wanted to change the restaurant's operating hours to capture the early-morning breakfast crowd, particularly the annual Turkey Trot participants, and to get more private party bookings in the evenings. People who ask to book the place for private events want to be able to stay past the current closing time of midnight, and she can't do that under her existing permits, she said, adding that she didn't plan to regularly keep the restaurant open beyond midnight.
Commissioners said that because of the downtown region's troubles in recent years with late-night noise and alcohol-related complaints, they couldn't support her request, though the Roxy had not been a source of those complaints. They said they would grant the restaurant's 1 a.m. closing request on just one night a year -- New Year's Eve.
In other action Sept. 6, the commissioners backed plans for a part-time mini-fire station in Leucadia over the objections of an opponent of the city's much-debated, proposed overhaul of northern Coast Highway 101.
Known as Streetscape, that project involves reworking a 2.5-mile stretch of Coast Highway from La Costa Avenue to A Street, adding six traffic circle roundabouts as well as bike lanes, sidewalks and a beautification treatment. In order to create space for the various changes, the project would eliminate a vehicle lane in each direction for much of the route.
Christine Wagner, one of the people who filed an appeal with the state Coastal Commission over the Streetscape project earlier this year, said the new fire station pilot project is the city's way of circumventing serious emergency vehicle access concerns with Streetscape's planned elimination of vehicle lanes.
"It's a bit premature," she said as she urged commissioners to deny the permit requests and wait for the state to reach a decision on the opponents' appeal.
Commissioners said they thought the fire station was needed regardless of what happened with the Streetscape project, saying the area's lengthy waits for emergency aid have long been a concern and need to be reduced.
The mini-fire station — a portable trailer building and a small fire truck — would be housed on the parking lot of the old Cabo Grill restaurant at 1950 N. Coast Highway 101. The station would be staffed by a fire captain and a firefighter/paramedic 12 hours a day.
-- Barbara Henry is a freelance reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune.