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Cypress Lounge Vs. Planning Department

cypressFRESH DIRT > Restaurant owner fights city to keep license

Since 2009, Cypress Dine and Lounge on Union and Cedar streets downtown has been serving and entertaining locals with great food and one-of-a-kind live music. But the popular restaurant, which doubles as a nightclub, has routinely been the subject of complaints from neighbors who say that noise levels are too high and that its patrons litter the neighborhood.

This has caught the attention of the city’s Planning Department, which claims that Cypress is not abiding by the city’s regulations. The bar, which capitalizes on its clientele’s need for a unique outing experience in Santa Cruz, now faces the threat of having to scale back their hours and lose their entertainment license.

Ashton Hodge, owner of Cypress, went before the city’s Zoning Administrator last Wednesday, July 6, to defend his establishment during a public hearing. The hearing, which was held to determine whether or not the Cypress Lounge was complying with the permit conditions, did not conclude in favor of Hodge. Hodge proceeded to file an appeal on Tuesday, July 12 in hopes that he can convince the Planning Department and city officials that Cypress Lounge is a bona fide, law-abiding establishment.

While the Planning Department claims that the Cypress Lounge is a nuisance to the neighborhood, Hodge sees it differently. He says that “most of the people who leave alcohol bottles [in the neighborhood] are the homeless,” which congregate in the area because of the nearby tunnel.

He feels that the Planning Department, who based their decision to pull the bar’s entertainment permit in part due to noise complaints, is being unfair. He has already reduced the hours of amplified music and all entertainment to 10 p.m. from Sunday to Wednesday, and replaced the original sound system with one that is smaller and not as loud. Last week, he hired First Alarm, a security company that services other businesses in the downtown area. Hodge made these changes specifically to meet the entertainment permit’s conditions.

Neighborhood residents Jenifer Sahara and Alecia Kringen, do not find any problem with Cypress Lounge. “We live downtown, that’s what we chose,” says Sahara. Asked about the noise, Kringen says she sees both sides, but does not take issue with Cypress’ current closing time of 1 a.m.

Comments (3)Add Comment
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written by yesenia, July 14, 2011
I have been to the Cypress Lounge on a number of different occasions for after work happy hours and evenings out with friends. I always have a good time and have never felt discouraged from coming back. I was at the Zoning Administration meeting last week and it appeared to me that they had already made a decision with little regard to all the changes Cypress had implemented to address the expressed concerns. I learned that they had never been told that any problems existed until just about one month ago at which time they started implementing changes. In a time of economic decline and limited job opportunities its outrageous that the city is trying to close down another venue that employs a number of local citizens, brings in revenue for the city, draws tourists and provides a cultural venue for artists and musicians to share their talents. All because of minor noise complaints and littering, that can't always be directly connected to Cypress. This is absurd! While I don't agree with littering, I think it's unjustifiable to blame Cypress for it. Also, I understand that noise can be a nuisance, but it's to be expected if you live in the hart of downtown. I think it would be a shame to see another entertainment venue close down and people loose their jobs over this. ~yesenia
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written by Ernest, July 14, 2011
Cypress is one of my favorite hang out places in Santa Cruz. I feel outraged by how the city can bully businesses. I was at the zoning hearing and it seemed that the city already had it in for Cypress. Only 2 people had anything negative to say. One thing was the people drinking in neighbors yards. How dare them blame that on Cypress. A bar is not a liquor store. how do they know the bottles are even sold at Cypress and what about all the other bars in town or right down the street.This is rIdiculous! The other problem was people urinating in alleys and driveways. Hello, this city has a huge problem with the homeless! they come from all over. Hey, lets just blame that on Cypress too. A few noise complaints but never a single noise ticket. Something fishy is going on and it stinks. Shame on the city. the city wants tourism and cultural diversity but wants none of the businesses that provide it.A funny thing was right after the zoning hearing i saw 5 homeless people sleeping on the city's lawn.Maybe those were the people drinking and urinating in neighbors yards! Recently i attended a reggae fest on a sunday for the boys and girls club at Cypress. Artists do murals there for free because they are for the cause. This place is a tourist attraction for the city and they are too blind to see what's right in front of their face.By taking Cypress's entertainment license and shutting them down at 10:00 would potentially ruin them. 25-30 people would lose their jobs and Santa Cruz would have one less cultural hub and tourist attraction.If this happens I will be ashamed to call this city one that encourages diversity and culture. Peace....
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written by DJ Tom LG, July 14, 2011
I had a VERY negative experience with this venue when they booked me to host a weekly DJ event. After two months of promoting the night I showed up with my DJ equipment to set up early. I was approached by the venue owner and told that there was a different event scheduled and that they didn't want me to play there. I stood in total amazement wondering how long this venue would last. I have not stepped foot into this place since, that was 2009. Still even though, it would be too bad if Santa Cruz lost another music venue because of some complaints about loud music in our urban downtown.. This is actually very typical of Santa Cruz's awkward half-assed "support" of music, art and creativity. -DJ Tom LG

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