Home » Midtown neighbors cry foul over BarWest’s entertainment permit plans
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Midtown neighbors cry foul over BarWest’s entertainment permit plans

Before opening in Midtown in summer 2011, BarWest’s owners told neighbors and the press that they wouldn’t seek an entertainment permit from the city.

Not quite two years later, the bar/restaurant that took the place of Aura on J Street is doing exactly that, inciting the wrath of neighbors who say BarWest isn’t holding to its original agreement.

"Needless to say, I’m incredibly disappointed that they have gone back on their word," said Julie Murphy, co-chair of the Marshall School/New Era Park Neighborhood Association. "And we have grave concerns about how an entertainment permit will affect the ecosystem on that block."

In a letter dated Feb. 22, 2013, the City of Sacramento’s community development department notified property owners of BarWest’s request for an entertainment permit. This would allow the venue to host activities such as DJs, live bands, karaoke, dancing and trivia, seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. The letter wasn’t sent to those who rent, however, which neighbors say makes up a large portion of the area surrounding BarWest.

And they’re crying foul, big time.

"They lied to us about what it was going to be when it went in," said Trish Wallis, who lives within shouting distance from BarWest, and is often woken up to the sounds of yelling, cars peeling out, and people fighting.

Wallis said the owners originally characterized the business as a beer, burgers and wings neighborhood spot, but "it’s turned into something clearly much more alcohol related."

"Their big thing is punch bowls – a giant fishbowl full of alcohol, with really long straws," she said. "It’s exactly the kind of atmosphere it attracts. I call it Frat West or Douche West, really bro-y guys and college-aged girls, and it turns into mayhem, and in the summer it is insane."

When contacted Wednesday, co-owner Shults said he didn’t understand why neighbors are so concerned, or why The Sacramento Press was pursuing a story. "Is there a story there?" he initially responded to this reporter. "I don’t believe it’s a story. I continue to get bashed in the Sac Press and (Sacramento) News & Review."

Shults went on to say that BarWest pays for police and private security to patrol the area, and that he abides by every law required. "And I am a good neighbor," he said. "I pay my taxes, I employ a lot of people, and make sure there’s no disturbances.

"I feel as though I’m being a good neighbor, unfortunately there are some who feel I am not."

He said the bar/restaurant filed for an entertainment permit after being forced to shut down trivia night, which is classified as entertainment.

But when asked about neighbors’ concerns, Shults didn’t have much to say. "If it’s about neighborhood complaint issues, I choose not to give a quote," he said.

BarWest co-owner Trevor Shults.

Randy Paragary, a partner of BarWest and owner of Paragary Restaurant Group, didn’t return calls seeking comment.

When the bar/restaurant was moving into the space on the 2700 block of J Street in May 2011, Shults seemed to want to develop a good relationship with neighbors, telling The Sacramento Press in an interview at the time that, "In Midtown, the only way you’re going to survive is if the neighborhood association supports you."

Murphy said BarWest appeared to take neighbors’ concerns to heart when moving into the space, "but recent actions show they aren’t going to honor their promise."

She heard about the permit application through Councilman Steve Hansen’s office, she said, and not the BarWest owners. "So apparently there’s no desire to work with the neighbors as well," she said. "Actions speak louder than words."

Other than telling The Sacramento Press they wouldn’t seek an entertainment permit, the owners made the same verbal promise to neighborhood associations.

An article from May 2011 said that “several concessions were made to get the neighbors on board – including agreeing not to apply for an entertainment permit through the city and bolting down tables on the ground floor so they can not be cleared for a dance space, as was previously done when Aura occupied the building.”

In minutes from the Marshall School/New Era Neighborhood Association board meeting in April 2011, owners Trevor Shults and Todd Zancaner were quoted as saying they want a condition added on their ABC license saying "that they will not file for an entertainment permit." No such stipulation could be found on BarWest’s ABC license.  

"You can’t do that," said George Raya of the Marshall School/New Era Neighborhood Association. "You can’t come in and say one thing, and down the road, change the story."

Wallis wrote a letter to the city, requesting that the permit application be denied. "I live less than a block from BarWest, and have been awoken countless times by patrons leaving the bar at early hours in the morning in my neighborhood," the letter reads. "I have picked up trash littered by patrons as they have left the bar. I have been witness to BarWest employees…drinking open containers of alcohol in the park across from the establishment and littering their empty beer bottles when finished."

Maurice Chaney, a spokesman for the city, said BarWest applied for the permit on Feb. 13. Shortly afterward, the city did an inspection of BarWest, and came back with a list of corrections. BarWest must next request a re-inspection, Chaney said. After that, the city has 45 business days to make a determination whether to grant the permit, Chaney said.

Ultimately, the community development department has the final say. There is no public hearing process, but residents with concerns can contact the city’s entertainment permits staff at (916) 808-3535, or send comments to entertainpermit@cityofsacramento.org, with the subject line “BarWest,” according to the letter sent to property owners.

But there’s more to the process than simply being up to code. "There is a due diligence piece to it," Chaney said. The city considers the track record of business’ management and owner, its location, community concerns, and receives input from the police on levels of calls to service the area, he said.

D4 Councilman Steve Hansen was careful to not vindicate either side. "Being a good neighbor is an important standard for everyone to live up to in the balance between residents and business," Hansen said . "As this particular permit is being considered, I would like to see all of these issues aired and given due consideration ensuring that we continue to create the kind of neighborhood everyone would want to live in."

BarWest has been a source of contention for neighbors since opening its doors in summer 2011. They’ve complained of noise levels and fights along the stretch of J Street, citing BarWest as the main culprit, though the block is also home to several other bars and clubs. And it’s received much attention from the media, such as the Sacramento Bee, Sacramento News & Review, and CBS.

Raya emphasized that the neighborhood association isn’t anti-business, and worked with Harlow’s in ensuring the music venue could operate while minimizing the impact to its neighbors. He went on to say that the New Marshall School/New Era Park Neighborhood Association will take up the matter at its Sunday meeting. "This just got added to it and we will officially, as an organization, take a position," Raya said. "From what I’ve heard, not one person is supportive of the entertainment license."

But the goal isn’t to shut down BarWest, it’s to hold them to the original agreement, neighbors say.

"No, we don’t want to close Barwest," Raya said in a comment on this article after it was posted. "We want Trevor Shults and Todd Zancaner to continue to honor the promise they made to their neighbors. No entertainment license would be applied for, period. They offered to put that promise in writing, but we took them at their word and did not ask for a signed pledge. Now we know, with some people, you need to put an agreement in writing."

Editor’s note: The last quote in this article was removed after the speaker, Geogre Raya, said it did not reflect what he had intended to say. (See comment below for context). 

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