Oceanside CA— This morning, September 25, 2018, agents of the California Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) posted a Notice of Suspension at the Firewater Saloon, 406 Pier View Way in Oceanside. The actual paperwork was served to the establishments attorney on Monday. The Firewater Saloon is prohibited from serving, selling or allowing consumption of alcohol indefinitely. The owner must transfer the license to another person or persons within the next 180 days or the license will be revoked.
“This is going to bankrupt me,” said Alicia Breton who has owned the Firewater for the last two and a half years. “I never ever saw anything like this happening. I knew the bar had history and I’ve worked really hard the last two and a half years to try and change the reputation of the bar. I have tried to make it a better place but I never thought they would target us like this. I didn’t even think they could do something like this.”
The suspension is the result of an investigation conducted by the ABC and Oceanside Police Department related to disorderly activity as defined by California Business and Professions Code Section 25601.
From December 2016 through July 2018, police responded and took action numerous times for incidents such as fights, assaults, public drunkenness and disturbing the peace. Because there were so many calls for service this created a law enforcement problem and a drain on police resources.
“The Oceanside Police Department had contacted the ABC to start an investigation into a disorderly location,” said Captain Jennifer Hill with the ABC San Marcos Office. “A “Disorderly Location” means that this location was causing so much crime or creating law enforcement problems that it is a drain on police department resources.”
Captain Hill said that between January 1, 2017, and May 4, 2018, the Oceanside Police Department had to respond to a total of 153 calls for service at the Firewater Saloon. “Of those 153 calls for services, 48 were 9-1-1 calls related specifically to violent crime. Not only is the location a drain on Oceanside Police Department resources but is a detriment to the community as a whole given that if officers are here averaging at least nine times per month, and not just one officer, resources are limited for anyone else in the city needing a response.” continued Captain Hill, “After an investigation and the amount of substantial evidence provided by the Oceanside Police Department, we did move forward with administrative disciplinary against the ABC license of this establishment.”
The disciplinary actions, which were agreed to by the owner of the Firewater Saloon and ABC, begin today and includes revocation of the license being stayed for 180 days so the owner has an opportunity to transfer the license to a new person. The ABC license also has operational conditions placed on it that will be transferred to any new licensee including removal of pool tables, reduced hours, no dancing and no loud music . “This agreement does let the owner financially benefit from the sale of the license at this location. However, due to our investigation, the ABC has determined that this licensee is no longer qualified to hold an ABC license,” Captain ‘Hill said.
Alicia said she was “shockingly” called into a meeting in August and basically said they were charging her with public nuisance and disorderly house. “They really didn’t give us many options. It was close the doors and sell the bar, which is at a loss once the doors are closed, or they would revoke the license. What options do I have? This could take months or years to fight both the City and ABC and I can’t financially do that.”
The Firewater is known for their playing of hip-hop and urban music. “There is a lot going on here,” said Alicia. “I think there is a lot of discrimination, defamation of character. I’ve been told I don’t have a good clientele. I believe this action is racist. My staff is very diverse as well as the customers and I think that’s a problem to some people.” She also feels that gentrification and sexism are playing a role in the action against the Firewater. “This bar is not without its faults but we are no worse than any other bar in this community.”
“I was told when I bought this bar that the police would be working with me to better this area. Instead, it has just been a push back. I feel betrayed by some members of the Oceanside Police Department who took me to coffee, called me their kiddo and that we were going to work things out. That’s not what happened,” continued Alicia. “It’s hurtful. We never wanted to be a problem bar. We wanted to work to change that reputation and make a better downtown.”
“My staff worked with her [Alicia] on a consistent basis. We met with her, gave her suggestions. If she worked with us we wouldn’t be here today,” said Oceanside Police Department Chief, Frank McCoy. ”
Alicia said she is devastated by the action not just for her but her staff that will be out of work. “We have single mothers, veterans. It’s heartbreaking.”