After two long and expensive years filled with hardships and court battles, it finally appears that the legal woes for Woody’s Wharf– one of Balboa’s last entertainment venues– are finally coming to an end. Mayor Ed Selich and Mayor Pro Tem Diane Dixon have worked diligently to negotiate and complete a settlement agreement to Woody’s which finally recognizes their historic place here on Balboa Peninsula. The agreement restores most of the rights that the business had prior to the court battles, enabling them to serve alcohol at the top of the boat docks once again, use the patio until 2am, and allow smoking on the adjacent outdoor walkway, just as they had been doing for many, many decades.
The previous City Council illegally repealed a Planning Commission decision in September of 2013, which was initially deemed a legal action in May of 2014 by the OC Superior Court judge, Derek Hunt, but overturned in January of 2015 by the 4th District Court of Appeals, re-granting Woody’s the right to the patio and dancing on the weekend.
The deal brokered by Dixon officially recognizes that legal right to dance, explicitly naming Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights as days of authorization, and also extends patio times to 2am on those days. 12 additional days for those permits will be allowed by the city per year, which will likely be used on national holidays like the 4th of July, Woody’s co-owner Mark Servanti told me on the phone.
This represents a very welcome change of pace Mayor Pro Tem Dixon, who saw tremendous backlash during the “Lights Out At 11pm” movement (officially known as “The Balboa Overlay”). [DISCLAIMER: I was a vocal opponent of this proposal, gathering thousands of signatures and organizing the community against it].
However, after many months of Dixon working closely with the bar and restaurant owners, the agreement that Dixon and Selich have struck with Woody’s shows a tremendous positive growth in business-friendly policy-making over a relatively short period of time.
While Dixon and I have been well known to have our clashes in the past, I will give credit where credit is due: This is a great move for our community, and she deserves all of the credit for heading the negotiating tables and making it happen.
Balboa Peninsula has over 100 years of history as one of the best entertainment areas in Orange County. It was founded by ship builders, sailors, and fishermen– who still dominate the Balboa Peninsula area to this day. While it may not be my scene– and even with the relatively new appearances of power boats and yachtsmen– the area as a whole still strongly craves the glory days of yesteryear, when the Rendezvous Ball Room, a classic building at the end of Palm St and the Oceanside Boardwalk, operated with great fanfare, even launching international dance crazes like “The Balboa” and the “BalSwing” in the 1930s. The Righteous Brothers, Dick Dale, and the Beach Boys all got their start right there.
Today, Woody’s Wharf (along with only Blue Beet, Siena, and the American Legion) has become a hub for much of the once-booming entertainment businesses on the Balboa Peninsula. Even during the 90s, we in Newport saw a rise in entertainment venues such as The Warehouse, Thunderbird and Josh Slocum’s. Others, like Parker’s Seafood Grill, Red Onion and Rumpelstiltskin’s also came and went. Some due to poor business, but many due to unfortunate repeated targeting by government, which whittled down the businesses in both size and numbers through government policies over several decades.
To see Dixon working to preserve what is still left of a vibrant and lively community is a welcome relief for many who once considered her to be part of the “modern-day temperance movement”– a claim she has flatly denied, and a claim that when paired with this deal has concretely proven to be ill-conceived.
The closed-session meeting on the Woody’s Wharf vote was originally scheduled to happen on Tuesday, September 22nd, but due to the absence of one of the councilpeople, was rescheduled until October 13.
If you want to make your voice heard on the subject, write City Council collectively, at email@example.com — they listen!