Proposal to revitalize entertainment on Telegraph makes progress

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A proposal to make Telegraph Avenue more vibrant and safe at night made further progress after the City Council voted Tuesday night to refer the suggested zoning changes to the planning commission.

In Tuesday’s meeting, Councilmember Kriss Worthington proposed updating Berkeley from a “vestige of ancient history” by streamlining the permitting process for businesses on Telegraph in hopes of improving entertainment, business and safety in Berkeley.

“The zoning changes are a step forward in providing things people on Telegraph want,” said Councilmember Jesse Arreguin.

In 2013, the council approved to extend commercial operating hours to 24 hours per day on Telegraph, according to Arreguin.

Worthington said despite the council’s approval, it is still difficult to open late-night entertainment on Telegraph.

“There are very few places on Telegraph to go out and have a fun night,” Worthington said. “Many young professionals and students want to have fun.”

Worthington added that the city needs forms of entertainment in which UC Berkeley students and residents under the age of 21 can participate.

Randy Tran, an intern in Worthington’s office, said he thinks that if the city improves its nightlife, it will attract more students.

“No one talks about the nightlife in Berkeley — that is what we are trying to work at,” Tran said.

Additionally, Worthington and Arreguin hope to make the process of obtaining alcohol permits more efficient, so new businesses can open and existing businesses can stay open longer.

According to Tran, to obtain an alcohol permit in the Telegraph area, businesses are required to go through a lengthy public hearing, which can then be appealed, often leading to more hearings.

Alex Popov, the owner of Pappy’s Grill and Sports Bar on Telegraph, said new businesses could fulfill the void of much-needed entertainment in the area.

“We support the activities because we think it will add to the nightlife on the avenue,” Popov said. “There is a robust crowd here on the avenue because people are looking for things to do.”

The zoning changes will also increase the safety of Telegraph, said Igor Tregub, a commissioner on the Zoning Adjustments Board.

Tregub said if Telegraph stays open later, there will be less crime because of more lighting on the streets, public traffic and pedestrians.

Andrew Ochoa, a recent UC Berkeley graduate, said the zoning changes could encourage a better drinking environment than what is currently available around campus.

“That would mean less alcoholic poisoning trips to the hospital due to drinking and less parties on frat row,” Ochoa said.

Contact Octavia Sun at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @octavia_sun.