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Outside area for Village sports bar gets reprieve

Developers of a new Village sports bar/cafe, whose request for a neighborhood use permit for a sidewalk cafe was turned down recently by a local advisory group, said the city has sided with them.

“We have been approved by the city of San Diego for an outside cafe,” said Ben Tashakorian, a commercial real estate broker representing Oved Haskal, owner of Aroma/Barfly at 909 Prospect St. (formerly Hard Rock Cafe/Bistro 101). “They’ve agreed that we can execute our license with 6 feet of sidewalk clearance and that a variance is not required.”

In a letter, the city told developers the variance would not be needed but added, if the matter were appealed to the Planning Commission that “the commissioners final motion may decide a variance is necessary.”

Joe LaCava, president of the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA), whose members voted 4-11-1 on April 1 to deny Aroma/Barfly’s sidewalk cafe, said his group would consider appealing the city’s decision favoring the restaurant.

In rendering its April 1 vote, LJCPA noted the proposal didn’t conform to La Jolla’s Planned District Ordinance (PDO), which requires 8 feet of sidewalk clearance for an outdoor sidewalk cafe. Barfly’s proposed clearance is 6 feet. The advisory group had suggested the restaurateur instead seek a variance from the city.

Haskal and Tashakorian contend there are numerous instances of Village businesses with outdoor patios and sidewalk clearances of less than 8 feet. They claim the following restaurants have 6 feet or less of sidewalk clearance — Alfonso’s, The Living Room, The Grande Colonial, Kitima, Whisk N’ Ladle, Brick & Bell and The Burger Lounge.

“The board’s negative decision and continued disregard to changing times as well as lack of vision, has cost dearly, with La Jolla losing more than three restaurants the past year and possibly more,” said Tashakorian. “Barfly and Aroma will be adding over 50 new jobs ... but more importantly drive much-needed traffic to the Village.”

LaCava noted that the 8-foot sidewalk clearance is to allow room to walk, free movement for mothers with strollers, shoppers, etc. “It’s to provide easy access for people who want to pause in front of storefronts without interference.”

How sidewalk cafes are treated in the city’s municipal code is somewhat of a gray area, LaCava said.

LaCava added many of the nonconforming outdoor sidewalk cafes in the Village with less than 8 feet of sidewalk clearance are “grandfathered in” as they got their permits before the PDO took effect in the 1980s.