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Bar Hopes Santa Barbara Council Accepts Request to Dance

The city will decide whether to overturn a denial of the Bricks Cafe's application for a dance permit.

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Bricks Cafe owner Wally Ronchietto wants the Santa Barbara City Council to overturn the Fire and Police Commission’s earlier denial of his application for a dance permit. (Rob Kuznia / Noozhawk photo)

In the latest battle of the downtown dance wars, a bar and restaurant on the 500 block of State Street on Tuesday will try to become the next establishment in the Santa Barbara nightclub zone to allow dancing.

The owner of Bricks Café, which a couple of years ago replaced Mexican restaurant Casa Blanca, is asking the Santa Barbara City Council to overturn the Fire and Police Commission’s earlier denial of his application for a dance permit.

Bricks owner Wally Ronchietto says he’s not asking for a full-on nightclub; he simply wants to stop having to crack down on patrons who want nothing more than to shimmy to the live music.

“Some nights we have Brazilian music — a very nice Brazilian singer-guitar player,” he said. “People get very excited and want to dance, and I have to tell them, ‘Please don’t do that. You are risking my liquor license.’”

It’s the latest episode in a wider quandary about noise, dancing and alcohol-related crime downtown that has left City Council members frustrated. In the past three years, one-third of all of the city’s reported late-night criminal offenses — and half of the alcohol-related offenses — occurred in the area with the downtown dance clubs.

In an attempt to address the matter, the council in January approved a new dance ordinance requiring large nightclubs to seek renewal of their dance permits every year.

Located at 509 State Street, Bricks Café is not a large nightclub seeking to renew its permit — it’s a new establishment trying to receive its first permit — but the bar is nevertheless part of the wider issue because it is located in the trouble zone.

One consistent critic of the excessive noise brought to the lower State Street area by nightclubs has been Hotel Santa Barbara general manager Tamara Erickson. Erickson said the clubs and attendant crime have taken a toll on the hotel’s business. On Monday, she said there is no room for another establishment with dancing.

“It’s a bad idea,” she said. “There are already too many concentrated in a small area.”

Mayor Marty Blum said on Monday that she doesn’t have a problem with the café obtaining a dance permit for the nonamplified music it is allowed to play, but she draws the line at amplification.

“It’s a small stage — it’s going to be right next to the dance floor, so it doesn’t really need to be amplified,” she said, adding that she needs to hear more discussion before making up her mind.

The café does have a blemish on its record. On April 6, it was cited by police for allowing people to dance to the music of a deejay despite the café’s lack of a permit. Ronchietto said his manager had arranged for the deejay to play without his approval. The manager, he said, was let go.

“(The manager) said, ‘The customer is king,’ and I said, ‘Not when you are losing your liquor license,’ ” Ronchietto said. “It’s very valuable. I paid $150,000 for it.”

Noozhawk staff writer Rob Kuznia can be reached at [email protected]

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