Viewpoint: Palisades Restaurants Should Have a Choice

By Julia Richardson
Special to the Palisades News

I’ve lived in Pacific Palisades for 15 years. Last month, I attended my first Pacific Palisades Community Council meeting, specifically for the hearing on Chipotle’s application for a beer license, which as some of you know was strongly opposed.

Chipotle, which opened its little restaurant on Sunset in January, wants to offer adults the comfortable option to have beer with their meal. The chain has never had a problem with underage drinking during its years of operating in Los Angeles, even at its popular location in Westwood near UCLA. The beer is kept under lock and key, and management has one of the most responsible reputations for serving beer.

The council chair and numerous members were very concerned that teenagers would find ways to steal bottles of beer and sneak sips of alcohol from bottles left unattended on the communal tables, even with an overseeing manager and multiple employees.

One man was uncomfortable that while sitting with his kids at a communal table, his kids would drink from someone’s nearby beer bottle. Members of the council sympathized, and it became clear the license application wouldn’t be supported. I was shocked. How would parents not notice their children drinking from someone’s beer while sitting six inches away from them?

After a couple of people spoke, I introduced myself and said that when I originally learned about the license, I was thrilled because if I want to have dinner and a beer at the end of the day, without paying $30, I have to leave town and drive to Santa Monica or Malibu. So, when I heard Chipotle had applied to serve beer, it meant I could stay in town and relax with a good burrito and beer after working all day with special-needs kids.

The chair cut me off mid-sentence and said we needed to move on. I was shocked, as others had been allowed to speak for longer. I continued, adding briefly that I had lived as a teenager in the Palisades and teens just don’t try to buy alcohol in restaurants because it’s too difficult. She cut me off again mid-sentence. I didn’t feel I was given a right to speak or that my voice was allowed to be heard, even as a Palisadian.

Conversations turned to the chair’s belief that children shouldn’t be regularly exposed to seeing alcohol sold at restaurants. She didn’t like the message this sent kids.

It’s ridiculous this restriction of rights and common lifestyle freedoms is even possible in Los Angeles. Alcohol is legal in America and it’s common for adults to enjoy a glass of beer or wine with dinner; this is not the Middle East. I doubt that the majority of Palisadians agree that alcohol shouldn’t be served in restaurants, yet the minority perspective could now prevail at Chipotle. It should be up to the company to decide what they can and can’t serve as long as it’s legal.

I’ve worked as an educator for more than 10 years with children and teens. Obviously, parents need to speak with and educate their children on responsible alcohol consumption and morality. As far as beer goes, teenagers will access it somehow if they want to enough, and usually that’s from a parent’s home.

In a city like Los Angeles, it’s impossible to think we can shield teenagers from alcohol. What we can do is educate them on what healthy consumption and safe behavior is, to equip them with the tools they need to make responsible decisions. Once they’re 21, they’re out in the world whether we like it or not.

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