OB Planners Approve Liquor License for Dirty Birds – But with a Condition

by on February 7, 2019 · 21 comments

in Ocean Beach

At last night’s Ocean Beach Planning Board meeting, after a long discussion with a heady amount of input from community members who showed, the Board approved the liquor license for Dirty Birds, a sports bar and grill moving into the newly constructed OB Plaza. But with a key condition.

The restaurant has to stop serving alcohol at 10 pm. Two of the owners of Dirty Birds present told the audience and Board they would abide by that condition. The condition would be on the ABC-issued license.

It was a lengthy discussion – with the pro’s and con’s of another restaurant serving booze being expressed by a good number of the 40 plus people who crammed into the Community Meeting room at the OB Rec Center – and the Board members themselves, who were split on the issue.

The issue of Dirty Bird’s application for a liquor license came to the Planning Board because their application was stalled, what with at least one resident complaint, and with the San Diego Police Department’s VICE flagging the issue of another establishment serving alcohol in a census tract already way  out of wack in terms of overall numbers, and notifying the Board.

When it was time for their presentation, 4 men came front and center to tell the meeting why their Dirty Bird alcohol license should be approved. Shawn Sullivan started off by saying he worked at Shades in OB, and now he was involved in opening another family restaurant, why it even has a kids’ menu. The first Dirty BIrds was opened in PB 10 years ago; then one opened in the College area 3 years ago, and a third at Liberty Station.

Shawn said the combined total of living and working in OB of the 4 before the board was 40 years. They’re locals and this was going to be a family restaurant where they’ve had spotless records at the other 3 sites. But in order to succeed as a restaurant, they needed that liquor license.

The problem now was, they’ve invested thousands of dollars in the new OB location but everything has ground to a half because of this controversy around their license.

Another gentleman took over the presentation; he was either a past or current chair of the Linda Vista planning committee and he spoke how he helped block a 7-Eleven from opening in his neighborhood because of their off-site alcohol sales. He spoke of how Dirty Birds is very strict with their alcohol licenses – and then it became obvious he wasn’t speaking for the Linda Vista planners but as an investor in Dirty Birds.

Chair Andrea Schlageter opened up questions or comments from the audience. Dirty Birds had brought some company – a couple of very influential individuals from the community for support.

Denny Knox, CEO of OB Mainstreet, spoke first. She recounted how Shawn had come to the Association 3 years ago. “We researched the company’s background,” she said, and basically giving her whole-hearted support to the restaurant. “It’s not just a bar,” Denny added.

“We worked for 3 years trying to find an OB location,” she said, “and we’re pleased at their outreach to the community.”

“Retail,” she continued, “is really difficult right now. Restaurants are very popular these days,” she said, and not just for food, but also as “meeting spaces.”

Finally, she summed up, “Our restaurants are so generous. There’s 50 restaurants and bars in our Restaurant Walk,” and she urged the panel to approve the license.

Dave Martin then rose and spoke in support of Dirty Birds. Shawn used to work with him – Martin was co-owner of Shades, a very-well known family restaurant that closed a few years ago because of his retirement. “Shawn worked for me for 10 years and he knows how important family restaurants are.” A few moments later, Dave gave some advice to the planners; “Ask them [Dirty Birds] if you want them to stop serving alcohol at 11pm,” as part of a compromise.

Next up to support the restaurant was Shana Atkins, who said  her family has been in OB since 1887. She likes family restaurants and agreed there’s too many bars. But places like Kilowatt has been involved in the community, so it’s different. Dirty Birds will be like that, she said.

Pat James came next.  He said, “I appreciate your sense of community,” but he explained he was “on the fence about the whole thing.” He questioned the Dirty Bird owners why they had to have a full bar and why not just one for beer and wine.

“A full liquor license is built into our lease,” one of the owners responded, and they have spent a lot of money, then they heard about the VICE complaint and it all has caused “a huge delay.”

James asked if they served vegetarian fare, and the owner pledged to offer it. Two more audience members raised the same query – why not just wine and beer. One woman questioned why there was a hold on their license by the Board of Equalization. They weren’t certain. Then Nick asked them again about the wine and beer.

The basic response was they were too far along with the current application for a full license, and if they stopped and re-applied, it would set them back 8 months, 10 months, even a year.

A man in the audience commented that he didn’t know the Dirty Bird owners, but he had been in one and it definitely was “a family restaurant just like Hooters,” he said in all seriousness. He waved to the owner as he left minutes later.

It was Denine Hunt’s time to make a comment from the audience. “It’s mostly a sports bar and I’m worried about saturation.”

There it was – the “S” word, “saturation”. Meaning there’s too many bars and tasting rooms and alcohol-serving restaurants in OB, especially around Newport Avenue. OB is overly-saturated with booze serving establishments was the sense of several more in the room.

Without directly responding, Shawn from Dirty Birds said they’ll be employing 30 to 50 people; “We really want to be here, in OB,” he exclaimed.

Another woman complained from the back of the room; she agreed with the saturation issue. “OB is over 200 per cent over what we should be.” She asked if they could serve just wine and beer and close earlier than midnight. Again the owner said, they would be set back 8 to 10 months if just had wine and beer.

Then he explained how food was about 65% of their intake, and they have a very small margin of profit on food. They needed a liquor license, and at this late date, could not move backwards for just a wine and beer one.

One woman asked just exactly what has been their community involvement, and one of the guys read off a long list of donations and contributions to different groups over their 10 years, like the Girl Scouts, Surfrider, Little League, cancer-victim fundraisers, etc.

Then a man rose and identified himself as Steven Cummings and the person who made the original protest against the license. He was also extremely concerned about saturation. “We have a lot of inebriated people,” he said, due to the high number of bars.

“Where do we stop?” he asked. And then he took Dirty Birds to task about the controversy; he had filed his protest on June 28, 2018, and he added, “You should have been aware of these issues.”

Another woman said she looked forward to their opening.

This reporter asked how they could “plead poverty” while about to open their 4th establishment and about to hire 30 to 50 people, and urged them to consider closing earlier.

The owner answered that “each place is a separate LLC,” and “we’re not just a big corporation.” He added, “Getting a  beer and wine license would take us back a year. Our pockets aren’t that deep … we went ahead, formalized the lease …” and now they’re faced with this delay.

A woman said, “there’s a positive track record [by Dirty Birds]. I see people getting sick,” she added, “from other places, I see other problems.

Town Council president Mark Winkie – who had just walked in moments before – was for the restaurant.

Dave Martin had the last say from the audience: “Shades closed at 9. Think about closing at 10pm,” he asked the Dirty Birds guys.

Andrea then took questions and comments from the Board.

Tracy Dezenzo asked if they could make their profit margin if they closed at 10 or 11. The owner: “yes.”

Craig Klein asked, “Could the beer and wine license be expedited? Explore this with your counsel if you can ‘downshift’.”

Here is where Chair Schlageter explained that in the census tract in OB in question, there are currently 30 places with on-sale alcohol sales and where ABC has only allowed 4; and there’s 6 off-site sales, and only 2 are allowed.

Andrew Waltz asked whether Dirty Birds had considered buying another alcohol license from another business with one in OB. Shawn said they started searching for OB locations in 2016, and in order to buy another one, they had to have an address. They ended up applying for one in April 2018 at the current location.

“Restaurants can’t survive without a liquor license,” Tom Gawronski said. “My concern is at 10 pm, the family restaurant becomes a bar – and we have enough bars.”

“It bothers me,” Board member and vice-president Kevin Hastings said, “that you guys are so far down the road. The Planning Board has been very conservative regarding alcohol licenses.”

“The license,” he said, “has to be for either public convenience or necessity, not how much is invested or the people are good guys. That’s not an issue.” Kevin recounted how he had tried to go to the PB Dirty Birds on a cold, rainy night but found it “in total chaos – a sports bar, not very family.” He urged them to “temper it down to beer and wine.”

The issue of Dirty Birds being a family restaurant or sports bar can perhaps be settled by the words “Sports Bar & Grill” on the outside of their OB location.

Richard Aguirre agreed with Hastings, he said at first, and said he was “blown away by a lot of people here to okay a liquor license.” He did say, however, he would support their license and even wished them “good luck.”

Board member Jane Gowronski reiterated the point that restaurants to survive have to have alcohol license; this one she said has a “spotless record and community involvement.”

Numan Stotz declared, “I prefer liquor, and want that choice.” He gave props to Martin and Knox for showing up to support Dirty Birds. “What bothers me,” he said, “is people here weren’t here for all the beer tasting rooms.” He added, “Small’s building is made for a restaurant; there’s parking,” but “this is the wrong fight for the OB Planning Board,” he said; “our fight should be against the tasting rooms.” And, “shame on the city for taking so long.”

Back to Tracy, who admitted she’s still struggling with the issue, did allow, “65% food is better than just alcohol.”

Klein said he canvassed his district and found his community evenly split, 50-50. He offered the idea of closing at 9pm on weekdays, and 10 on weekends.

Richard Merriman said he was “gung-ho for the restaurant” but wasn’t excited about the booze part.

Dan Dennison declared he supported the restaurant strongly.

Then Schlegeter tried for a compromise, seeing her board split. “Would you be willing to stop serving alcohol at 10 but keep your kitchen open longer?”

The owner replied: “Absolutely.”

And thus, a compromise bubbled up and was recast in the form of a motion, which was seconded.

Motion: approve license of alcohol sales with the condition alcohol sales prohibited after 10pm.

It passed 9 to 2.

Editordude: additional news from the OB Planning Board meeting will be forthcoming.





{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

retired botanist February 7, 2019 at 3:15 pm

Whaat?! My previous post, to Geoff’s distillation (to use an alcohol phrase), had a somewhat resigned ‘pall’ to it, not being ken to actual comments. Now I’m annoyed, and where is my violin?! Bring on the string quartet!
Money previously invested by a chain? Should have thought of that earlier- 30 existing in a district that allows 4- which part of THAT went unnoticed?
A kid’s menu? Tater tots makes it ok?
Set them back 8 months? Shallow pockets? Employment of 30-50?!
Already invested in the OB community via Shades?
The donation card?! What? Expecting something in return?! How left-handed!

Ugh. Reading the arguments ‘for’ just ruined my evening. This offers NOTHING to OB but another nail in the coffin of the lamination of sameness to a community that used to be distinctive, used to actually BE local. If Dirty Birds is so “local’ I would have at least expected a higher caliber of pitch than ‘we’re too far down the road, we’ll add a kids’ menu, and we’re just poor entrepreneurs”.
I was “oh well”. Now I’m shame on you- dirty birds indeed!


babs February 7, 2019 at 3:52 pm

I thought the “tasting rooms” did not have to go through the planing board because they didn’t serve food. But, that didn’t stop them from working with surrounding restaurants.


Frank Gormlie February 7, 2019 at 3:57 pm

The census tract is 75.02 – west of Froude and between Brighton and Niagara.


kh February 7, 2019 at 4:20 pm

sounds like a broken record hearing the applicant complain about costs and delays…. The planning board is there to consider the interests of the community. They have no duty to accommodate the applicant otherwise. And it’s no excuse. They could have done this presentation 3 years ago before all that money was spent. With or without a lease and with or without a license application – Our doors are always open. Perhaps they were hoping the whole thing would fly under the radar.


Michael February 7, 2019 at 5:51 pm

Not to be argumentative, but there’s a reason chain stores are becoming more prevalent in the community. If you’re going to have a lengthy and arduous approval process, you can’t expect a small player (i.e. Sole Proprietorship) to have the resources to “weather the storm.”

Long approval processes restrict the ability of locally owned businesses to compete.


retired botanist February 7, 2019 at 6:06 pm

If ‘David’ didn’t have keep fighting ‘Goliath’ maybe it wouldn’t be so long and arduous?


kh February 7, 2019 at 6:19 pm

The process is definitely flawed, but abandoning it is worse. If we have some say on alcohol licenses we should see these as soon as possible, for the benefit of everyone involved. It became long and arduous due to inaction by the applicant and/or SDPD. The applicant hired a license consultant and has been through this process before, so I found it astonishing they didn’t know their license wasn’t approved and never heard of PC&N.

No one here has any authority over chain stores moving in. We can kick and scream and try and scare them off but otherwise its purely between them and the landlord assuming they follow the rules.


Vern February 8, 2019 at 7:13 am

Reading from the Dirty Birds’ “Specials” menu it appears their focus is on booze sales. Otherwise, wings, mounds cheese and other fried crap. Very original.
Park those Bird & Lime scooters out front and let the SDPD rake in some additional revenue.


Vern February 8, 2019 at 7:14 am

“,,, mounds of cheese>>>’ to more more precise.


fstued February 8, 2019 at 8:29 am

Best of luck to Dirty Birds. It will just be another restaurant/sports bar in OB probably be a good one with lots of fattening foods and cold beer. BUt could it become another chain like the evil Starbucks or Target I am sure the owners wouldn’t mind. They are trying .
I am looking forward to some cold beer and some wings with maybe some blue cheese and a basketball game.


Tyler Brand February 8, 2019 at 11:13 am

Maybe they’ll be exceptional stewards like Mothers and leave dozens of cigarette butts headed for the sewer daily.


Vern February 9, 2019 at 9:10 am

Dumping cigarette butts on sidewalks and the curbs is a right reserved exclusively for the tattoo shops on Newport. (Or so it appears).


fred February 8, 2019 at 3:25 pm

Numan Stotz? Fight against the tasting rooms? Total ignorance that has been propagated by this site, among others. Anti-business ignorance. Once again, these early-closing, family-friendly places of business are spoken about in the same breath as ‘bars’. I can;t remember the last time I was in a bar, late closing, frequented by drunk drivers and non-locals. These old, out-of-touch, bored no-marks represent the noisy minority and I am sick of the sway they have. If there were postal ballots, they’d be gone, its just the majority of us have jobs, child care etc. These same people would probably claim to be democrats? Yearning for the good old days when OB was laid back?


Eric February 8, 2019 at 5:57 pm

I think it’s about time we just vote all alcohol joints in OB down.

Can anyone on the planning board propose a moratorium? Wow, they could be heroes.

This is the main reason OB is turning into PB. Tasting rooms and boozers, we’ve got plenty.


Chaz Lomack February 8, 2019 at 10:58 pm

It genuinely upsets me that people in the community would be egregiously obstinate towards change and progress.

D.C. Collier is spinning in his grave.


retired botanist February 9, 2019 at 6:37 am

Chaz, I don’t know what Collier would think, but given the 30 “sports bars”, “tasting rooms” -or however all these alcohol/food/TV bars are branding themselves- that already dominate business and real estate in OB, it doesn’t seem like either change or progress to me. What on earth is progressive about it?!
Change is the only constant in life. This scenario sounds like the very opposite…”let’s just keep adding tourist bars” and then watch them fall off the bottom of the line when over-saturation puts the unlucky ones out of business…

Sigh, once again, anyone opposed to America’s current business model, to the homogenization of coastline towns, opposed to the “chain effect” on small communities, is instantly branded as obstinate, old-school, obstructionist, and a whiner.
The very aspect of an area like OB, that people want to see and experience, will be swamped and muscled out by an atmosphere and aspect one can find virtually anywhere in the US. You’ll even find the same kind of TV bar, wing-slinging establishment at most airports, so why come to OB to experience that?! Why go to OB to buy a $4 Starbucks coffee, a beach towel from Target? :)
Change and progress? Not in my view, just dumbed down marching backward!


Vern February 9, 2019 at 9:12 am

“…change and progress….” is another bar and grill that sells cooked chicken parts? What is this the 1950’s?


Debbie February 9, 2019 at 8:43 am

I don’t believe they cook your wings to order….unlike Wing Stop.

Yup another concrete, loud, restaurant bar and no patio. I wonder if they will make iti?


Richard February 9, 2019 at 9:37 am



Dr. Jack Hammer February 9, 2019 at 11:39 am

prepare a nearby grave for Sunset Cliffs…


micporte February 11, 2019 at 7:47 am

thanks for all your comments OBeachins, OB rules, keep up the resistance of cool…


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