Leucadia Club gets pushback on alcohol permit request


A private club for career-minded people on Coast Highway 101 in Leucadia shouldn’t be allowed to serve alcohol to the general public, Encinitas planning commissioners said June 2.

Instead, the club needs to rework its pending liquor-license application with the state Department of Beverage Control and seek a different, more costly license that would restrict the club’s beer and wine sales to members and their guests.

To assist in the process, the Planning Commission agreed Thursday, June 2, to delay its vote on city use permits the club needs to accompany its liquor license application.

The public liquor license “is the wrong license for the organization, and I don’t want to set a precedent,” Commissioner Glenn O’Grady said of the group’s initial application.

Still, the three-month postponement and the change in the application won’t guarantee the club will get its permits and be allowed to sell alcohol.

“I don’t want to give you the false sense that you’ll be a shoe-in,” Commissioner Tasha Boerner Horvath said, noting that the area near the club has a high number of alcohol-related crimes and an “over-concentration” of businesses licensed to sell alcohol.

The Leucadia Club received a city minor use permit in 2014 allowing it to operate next to Pandora’s Pizza in the Leucadia Plaza, near the southeast corner of Leucadia Boulevard and North Coast Highway 101.

The private club proposal was somewhat controversial and the city permit contained a string of conditions, including a ban on alcohol sales and the requirement that no more than 20 club members can be in the facility at any one time.

Founding club member Charlie McDermott told the commission June 2 that the wild rumors tossed around by opponents four years ago were baseless. He said the club has had so little impact on the neighborhood that people don’t realize when it’s open.

The Leucadia Club is a social-networking group that brings people from a wide range of backgrounds together and has helped arrange financing for some business endeavors, he said. The group wants to only serve alcohol in the evenings after 5 p.m. and they’ll be charging something like $20 a glass, so it’s unlikely that people will be over indulging.

“We are not interested in serving a bar full of drunks,” he said.

He urged the commission to reconsider its recommendation that the group seek a private club liquor license, saying that could cost upward of $13,000. There’s no sign on the building, so even if the broader license is granted, the general public probably won’t be wandering in to buy drinks, McDermott said.

Commissioners said, however, that once the license and permits are granted, the place could morph into something else and there’s already 10 beer- and wine-serving restaurants in the area, plus a winery and a “cash and carry-out” place.

The county Sheriff’s Department has requested that the permit request be denied because of concerns about the high rate of alcohol-related crimes in the area, they added.

McDermott and an attorney for the club both said the Sheriff’s denial request was a common occurrence in San Diego County, but commissioners said this hasn’t been the case in Encinitas. Boerner Horvath, who was appointed to the commission last June, said she had reviewed many alcohol permit requests since she joined the commission, but this was the first one that was opposed by the Sheriff’s Department.

In its request to deny the permits, the Sheriff’s Department noted that in 2015 it had 715 calls for service within a one-third mile of the club and 71 of them could be directly attributed to alcohol use, including 39 public intoxication cases.

Henry is a freelance writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune in Encinitas.