The right to party doesn't necessarily come easily in Newport Beach.
City Council members on Tuesday took a step toward denying Woody's Wharf its request to expand hours of operation and have dancing on Friday and Saturday nights.
On a 4-1 vote — with councilman Ed Selich dissenting, Mayor Pro Tem Rush Hill recusing himself and council member Leslie Daigle absent — the council asked city staff to return with a resolution that would allow the restaurant to open earlier, build a patio cover and operate under less strict valet parking requirements, but not to stay open on the outdoor patio until 2 a.m. or allow dancing indoors on the weekends.
The decision affirmed residents' expressed concerns that the Balboa Peninsula establishment would threaten their quality of life if such changes were approved.
Before the vote, residents weighed in on the issue. Many said they were worried that Woody's Wharf was developing into a nightclub, which would not be in keeping with the peaceful and quiet character of the peninsula.
Others, however, said they considered the restaurant an icon and liked to maintain a social life within walking distance of their homes.
The controversy began in November when the Planning Commission approved extending the restaurant's hours and changing part of its parking requirement, according to the staff report.
But the decision did not satisfy all that Woody's Wharf wanted. The restaurant also sought approval at that time to allow dancing inside the restaurant and to remove the tables and chairs in the outdoor dining area.
The commission denied the requests and the restaurant appealed, according to the report.
Woody's Wharf offered to construct a patio cover to assuage any noise concerns. The awning would require a variance because of its proximity to the sea wall.
The commission approved both the variance and Woody's requests one year later, at its Sept. 5 meeting, according to the report. The decision cleared the way for removing tables outside and allowing dancing inside on Friday and Saturday nights until 2 am.
Councilman Mike Henn, acting out of what he said was concern for the quality of life of area residents, appealed this decision at the council's Sept. 10 meeting.
"I think they got it exactly, completely wrong," Henn, who represents the peninsula area, said Monday.
The owners contended that they were not wanting to change the way the restaurant has been operating. It opened in
the 1960's and changed ownership in 2002.
"We're just doing what we've always done," said Woody's Wharf co-owner Mark Serventi.
He later added, "People in the neighborhood want to dance."
OTHER CITY DECISIONS
Earlier in the meeting, Councilman Tony Petros asked the city staff to return with proposals for how Newport Beach might address parking problems around Corona del Mar High School.
Specifically, he requested the city to review possibilities such as applying time limits on parking or creating a permit-only policy.
The request comes amid complaints from residents living near the school who say their streets are clogged with the vehicles of students who park there instead of on school property and parents picking up their children in front of homes instead of a designated pick-up area.
Petros, Hill and city staff met with school representatives in late September to discuss these complaints, Petros said.
Council members also pushed through consent calendar items, including the revision of language in the harbor code that will require users of commercial tidelands to indemnify the city.
Council member Gardner pulled this item for discussion before it was passed. The item stems from controversy over whether city staff should have jurisdiction to transfer pier permits among family members without requiring a Harbor Commission hearing.
Council members also voted to pay $50,000 annually for the next four years to support the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce Christmas boat parade.
The city already gave clearance for the payment of $50,000 toward the December 2013 show, according to the staff report.