Restaurant and bar owners will soon be able to increase occupancy at their establishments, leaving at least one city leader concerned about problems that may arise from allowing more people inside.
The city plans to amend a 10-year code put in place to curtail overcrowding and rowdiness in downtown Fullerton; under the restriction, only one person was permitted per 15 square feet on dance floors and other areas without fixed seating.
The new law, which aligns with the 2016 state fire code, will permit one person per 7 square feet.
The change goes into effect next month.
“It’s interesting we have lower occupancy than many of the other communities, and yet seem to have a lot more issues in our downtown than a lot of these other communities,” Councilman Greg Sebourn said at a September council meeting.
“I don’t know that putting the people inside is suddenly going to solve any problems,” he said. “It may create all sorts of new problems.”
Police presence in downtown is predicated on calls for service, illegal activity and behavior that causes an unsafe environment, police Sgt. Jon Radus said. Because of the nighttime activity and the prevalence of such alcohol-related issues as fights, public intoxication and DUI, he said, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights are busy nights for officers.
Department statistics show more calls for service occur between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. on those nights than the same timeframe Sunday through Wednesday; officer-initiated activity – breaking up fights, snuffing out disturbances – nearly doubles.
When the restriction is lifted, restaurant and bar owners can start working with the Community Development and Fire departments to ensure their establishments meet all fire and life safety standards.
Places that would see a sizable bump in occupancy are to provide the city and Police Department an updated security plan detailing the number of personnel, their duties and procedures for addressing on-site conflicts.