City Council temporarily grants Acme Bar patio permit, hears report on reduced city water usage

Jiahao Huang/Staff

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After long-standing contention between the Acme Bar and Company and nearby residents, the Berkeley City Council granted Acme its patio permit request at its Tuesday meeting.

The bar at 2115 San Pablo Ave. filed an appeal in June after the Zoning Adjustments Board rejected their permit request in May. In a 5-2-0 vote, the council overturned the ZAB’s decision, giving Acme permission to extend services to the back patio temporarily, pending findings from a compliance report in six months.

In October 2013, Acme was issued a city code violation after making improvements to the back patio and serving alcohol without required permits. The bar’s owner, Jennifer Seidman, contended in a letter to the City Council that she was given permission by a city staffer to operate the patio while the permit was being processed; that fact, however, was contested in a letter from the city manager.

Multiple residents expressed that although they welcome the bar’s presence in their neighborhood, allowing the bar to use the patio in the past has created too much noise in their residential space.

“Imagine you’re 40 feet from a frat party,” said Dan McClain, one of multiple Berkeley residents who raised concerns with the bar at the meeting. “The amount of disturbance, the noise — it’s overwhelming.”

City Council opted to grant a patio permit to Seidman on the condition that she soundproof the patio, limit outside occupancy to 20 persons and prohibit music from playing outside. Seidman commissioned Berkeley-based Meyer Sound to conduct a sound report and offered to hire an additional employee to monitor patrons outside for noise control.

The council also asked city staff to return in six months with a compliance report, which will determine whether the bar met the standards set Tuesday night.

“It’s important for us to look at history and performance,” said Councilmember Max Anderson, who voted to uphold the ZAB rejection. “I tend to side with neighborhoods on this issue because they’re saddled with it and live with it everyday.”

In addition to granting the permit, City Council heard an information report from the city indicating that municipal water usage decreased by 29 percent between April 2014 and March 2015. The report also stated that about 150 young trees planted on medians have shown signs of stress after the city stopped watering them in April 2014 to reduce water usage.

City staff said they hand water these trees and are planning on using gray water, or water recycled from tubs, sinks and washing machines.

The council also unanimously voted to ask the city manager to determine whether it is illegal to remove flyers posted in compliance with Berkeley municipal code and to advise the Downtown Berkeley Association of its findings.

Though DBA CEO John Caner said at the meeting that the matter was new to him, several members of the public said they had submitted complaints to him regarding the ambassadors’ policy of taking down flyers and reporting those posting flyers to police.

The next City Council meeting is Oct. 27.

Jamie Nguyen is the lead city government reporter. Contact her at [email protected].