In a county dominated by the need to drive, a few Newport Beach spots offer late-night revelers something rare: a walkable nightlife.
One of these clusters of restaurants and bars lies on the Balboa Peninsula, near the Newport Pier. Patrons have come here for decades — be they neighborhood dwellers, summer renters or residents — to enjoy a vibrant, seaside area where they can move from place to place without getting behind the wheel.
Steady streams of people continue to enjoy the often party-like atmosphere the Peninsula provides, yet while the surrounding streets bustle, some who live there have raised complaints about patrons' noise and drunken antics. It's a problem that seems as old as the city itself.
But an ongoing dustup over noise and quality-of-life complaints has focused the conflict on one particular spot, Woody's Wharf, whose owners have sought an official extension to their operating hours and an allowance for patron dancing, first from the Planning Commission and then from the City Council. The issue will return to the council for a procedural second vote Tuesday.
People living in a condo down the street seized the opportunity to raise protest, testifying that Woody's negatively impacts the area. But Woody's owners say they simply want paperwork to match age-old habits.
"What we've been doing here is what we've been doing since the place opened," said Greg Pappas, one of four co-owners of Woody's Wharf, which was established in 1965.
As Peninsula residents cited alleged incidents of public urination, vomit and excessive noise related to the restaurant and bar, others argued that these residents should have known better. If one wanted complete peace and quiet, perhaps they picked the wrong the location.
On a weekend night, the Balboa Peninsula is certain to draw a crowd.
The options for late-night entertainment abound, whether one is looking for a relaxing dinner, live music or a stiff cocktail. Be it Cassidy's Bar & Grill, Mutt Lynch's, the Blue Beet or Blackie's By the Sea, each offers its own unique character but the same underlying product. They are beach-town spots where one can meet others over drinks.
While a "Lemongrass Drop" or "Scofflaw Cocktail" at the Cannery Restaurant might fetch $14, other locations cater to different desires, with drink specials like $3 for a bottle of beer and $5 for well drink during happy hour at the District Lounge, or $7 for a pint of beer and shot of liquor late on Saturdays at the Newport Beach Brewing Co.
On Saturday and Sunday mornings, Baja Sharkeez features a "Bloody Hangover Bar," with build-your-own double-shot bloody Mary's for $7.75 and bottomless coffee for $2, according to its website. Woody's Wharf offers a waterfront champagne brunch.
Other offerings abound at the Beach Ball, Rudy's Pub & Grill and Aurora Mediterranean Bar & Restaurant, or at the Porch Restaurant and Avila's El Ranchito, all within a 10-minute walk from one to another.
"It's a social thing for me," said Larry Edwards, who ranked Woody's Wharf as his favorite. "I like to get out and dance."
Among the restaurants and bars, commercial and residential properties are also woven, said Mario Marovic, who owns Malarky's Irish Pub, established in 1977. He said all need to co-exist.
"I don't define it as the party spot," Marovic said, noting that each location offers a specific product.
Councilman Mike Henn, whose district includes the Peninsula, said he has focused on this need for an understanding between mixed uses as part of an overall effort to improve quality of life.
As examples, Henn noted revitalization plans underway in the Balboa Village and Lido Marina Village areas, in addition to specific projects such as a new hotel proposed in place of the old City Hall and a condominium project up for council approval to be built on Via Lido.
Addressing any problems related to neighborhood bars is just one part of a larger effort, Henn said, noting that bar issues are fact-based and should be treated on a case-by-case basis.