Food trucks being cleaned out behind the building. DJs playing until all hours. Booze served after last call. A portable toilet installed out back. An underage person drinking in the bar. Non-functioning security cameras.
These are the alleged problems associated with , a sports bar and billiards hall at 522 Main St., according to a city report prepared for the Watsonville Planning Commission.
But it's the bar's six-month review with the planning commission—not the mounting issues with the bar—that is prompting city staff to recommend that planning commissioner reduce the hours at the El Miramar and enact strict guidelines for its owner, Juan Yepez Garcia, to follow.
“Of course the Brandon Gil murder investigation, that happened right outside their business and that is a part of it, but it’s not the sole and driving reason," Watsonville police Lt. David McCartney said.
In January, Garcia was granted a special use permit from the planning commission. That's when the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Academy graduate took over Miramar. Garcia had plans to operate the business as a restaurant, sports bar and pool hall, according to city documents.
At that time, the planning commission agreed to extend the bar's hours to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and allowed karaoke and bands to play on those nights.
But Garcia reportedly failed to comply with many requirements. The complaints against him include:
- Not installing a security camera at the back door.
- Inside the bar, a broken video camera inhibited the police department's investigation into Gil's death. He had been drinking in the Miramar before the deadly fight.
- Before May 6, there were no security guard at the bar.
- A DJ played loud music at the bar at least twice in the month of April.
- Alcohol was served after midnight on at least one night.
- An underage person was cited for drinking in the bar area in April.
- Two catering trucks are parked out back, where they are cleaned. Neighbors say this is a nuisance.
- Neighbors also complained about the portable toilet installed behind the business.
Gil's death cause police officers to take notice of the downtown bar and its issues. McCartney said the police department has been working with Garcia for almost two months to educate him about the requirements he’s supposed to meet. City staff has done a similar education process with him.
“These incidents have repeated themselves," McCartney said. "At this point it doesn’t appear that our compliance checks and education efforts have taken hold.”
It's proposed that El Miramar start closing at 10 p.m. daily, stop having live entertainment, park the catering trucks elsewhere and get rid of the port-a-potty.
The bar is currently open until 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. The pool hall is open unitl 2 a.m. daily, though alcohol sales stop when the bar closes.
If approved, the changes would be reviewed in three months to determine if they need to be modified again or if the Miramar's liquor license should be revoked.
The Villager, a bar on East Lake Avenue, with the Watsonville Planning Commission in late 2011 after several police incidents associated with the establishment. Unlike the Miramar, none of them resulted in death.
The in the City Council Chambers, fourth floor of the Civic Plaza, 275 Main St. in Watsonville