Encinitas tells Mr. Peabody’s patrons: ‘Dance your hearts out’


A ban on dancing that’s left many patrons of Mr. Peabody’s Bar & Grill feeling like they’re re-living scenes from the movie “Footloose” may finally lift early next month.

The Encinitas Planning Commission unanimously agreed Thursday, Jan. 17 to allow the restaurant on Encinitas Boulevard just west of Interstate 5 to modify its minor-use permit so dancing can be permitted.

“Dance your hearts out,” Commissioner Kevin Doyle told the 50 patrons of Mr. Peabody’s who came to support the restaurant at the hearing.

They responded with loud applause and cheers.

“We’re just glad it’s over and the heartbreak of having to tell people not to dance is coming to an end,” Brie Cardosa, who operates Mr. Peabody’s with her father, told a reporter outside City Hall after the vote.

Dancing at Mr. Peabody’s, a dinner spot in the Moonlight Marketplace shopping center where the Lazy Acres grocery is the main tenant, first became a source of conflict several years ago when the city launched a campaign to combat alcohol-related problems, including late-night noise and public intoxication issues, in downtown Encinitas along Coast Highway 101.

Mr. Peabody’s isn’t located along the coastal highway and hadn’t been a source of noise complaints, but it got caught up in the crackdown.

While in town to conduct extra enforcement along the Coast Highway, inspectors with the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control also visited other alcohol-serving establishments in town. They witnessed patrons dancing at Mr. Peabody’s and the restaurant was fined for allowing dancing in violation of its permits, which startled patrons and the restaurant’s owners.

Since then, restaurant employees have had the awkward task of repeatedly telling patrons, many of them middle-aged folks, that they can’t sway to the classic rock and soft jazz that’s regularly performed there by live musicians, several customers and musicians told the commissioners Thursday, Jan. 17.

Commissioners said they had no trouble making the modifications to the restaurant’s permit — essentially they had to make a finding that the place was mainly a restaurant, not a “dance hall,” and dancing would only be a minor aspect of the business.

They also agreed to allow the restaurant to increase the number of days that it can offer live music from five days a week to seven, and said Mr. Peabody’s would be allowed to have up to five musicians performing at a time.

The permit changes will likely become effective in early February, after the city’s 15-day time period for filing an appeal ends and the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control gives its final OK, city associate planner J. Dichoso said after the commission vote.

Mr. Peabody’s isn’t the only place that’s sought to change its permits to allow dancing in recent months. In September, the Roxy Restaurant — a downtown restaurant that’s been offering live music for years — won city permission to remove four tables and modify its interior to create a tiny dance floor.

-- Barbara Henry is a freelance reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune.