The Campbell City Council Chambers were bursting at the seams with both supporters and opponents of Melodann, Inc.'s application to convert the former Gaslighter Theater into Dasha, a restaurant and lounge.
People stood in the isles, at the back of the room and in the lobby. Dasha supporters held signs that read "We Support Dasha."
Dozens of supporters and opponents sounded off during the public hearing portion of the meeting, giving emotional testimony about the benefits of a new establishment downtown, of the added noise, the appreciation over the historic preservation aspect and in defense to comments made describing Campbell as a "ghost town" with few qualities.
"This is what democracy is all about and this is how it should happen, but I'm voting against it," said Campbell Councilman Jason Baker. "This is an experiment that we cannot afford. The combination between the proposed use, time and unknown future owners ... What happens if that plan doesn’t work out? The CUP runs with the land. It could be disastrous for our downtown. We can’t afford that risk right now."
This was how a night that ended a quarter to midnight finally concluded; a 4 to 1 vote, with Councilman Jeff Cristina the dissenting vote. The decision to deny the Conditional Use Permit was upheld by council.
The appeal was for a conditional use permit for the owners of Dasha, a restaurant and lounge located at 400 E. Campbell Ave. to be granted permission to serve alcohol past midnight, the current time allowed by the . The applicants sought to serve alcohol out of the establishment until 2:00 a.m. and were denied their CUP at the Campbell Planning Commission meeting Oct. 25, 2011.
The applicants told the council that with more time, they could have addressed all the issues the community and council had with the proposal.
The company collected more than 420 signatures in support of its proposal, collected downtown, most at the farmers market and about 200 of which were Campbell residents. Company representatives also spoke with eight neighboring businesses, of which four also signed the petition.
But when asked if they had reached out to the community prior to going before the planning commission, Melodann, Inc. said they had not. The group at after being denied the CUP by planning.
"The only public outreach was done between the denial and appeal," Vice Mayor Evan Low said. "Signature gathering is important as well but doesn’t identify the concerns.
"You need to do the necessary groundwork and homework prior to bringing this before the planning commission," Low continued. "Why did that not occur? That's a critical component to bring forth to any public forum."
According to the planning commission, and affirmed by city council, the proposal not only did not comply with the current alcohol policy but it also did not comply with Campbell's General Plan.
Sean Buxton, one of the co-owners of the building addressed these concerns by stating that Campbell Chief of Police Greg Finch "has stated that the police department is already strained from 11-6 a.m.
"They are strained by budget," Buxton said. "Denying new businesses is not a response that will help. It will backfire ... and the only supportive businesses are dive bars because it’s the only businesses the downtown can sustain."
Buxton also asserted that Campbell property values will continue to go down, both residential and business, if nothing happens with the old Gaslighter Theater.
"We can address the problems without closing down our borders and shutting down new businesses," he said. "There’s no question of what this venue will turn into after 10:00 p.m."
The type of business he is referring to is what his team referred to as an "ultra lounge," which is why the CUP for serving of alcohol past midnight is important to Dasha.
"Our business model works hand to hand with late night alcohol sales," said operator Ray Shafazand. "About 30-40 percent of total sales generated will be between 11:30-1:30 am. Without that in hand, we cannot compete. We cannot survive."
Councilman Rich Waterman asked Shafazand why operators similar to what Dasha is being described as, such as Sino and Straits at Santana Row can close by midnight and be profitable and they cannot. Shafazand said that Santana Row has established foot traffic while Campbell does not.
“Campbell is known for many other things besides the night life,” said Mayor Mike Kotowski. “I was very excited that we were going to have a top end restaurant. Unfortunately I feel like the development has changed and has moved more towards the bar scene and less than the restaurant scene.
“We still have to remember that final cost is to us, the people who live here,” Kotowski continued. “And it’s going to cost us not in taxes gained but in money spent to deal with what everyone does afterwards.”