A downtown restaurant known for its beers can reopen its open-air window spaces and keep them glass-free until 10 p.m. each day, the Encinitas City Council decided last week.

In a split 3-2 vote, with Mayor Teresa Barth and Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer opposed, the council reaffirmed a recent city Planning Commission decision and rejected an appeal filed by several nearby homeowners.

The council’s decision allows the Bier Garden restaurant on Coast Highway 101 to return to the open-air look it had months ago — before the city discovered the newly opened business didn’t have a permit for those special window spaces and ordered them closed.

Bier Garden attorney Marco Gonzalez told the council Wednesday night that he believes the monthslong conflict might never have happened if there hadn’t already been a wide-ranging battle in downtown over bars and alcohol-related problems.

“I think we’ve gotten caught up in this greater Encinitas Hospitality issue,” he said, referring to a new merchants’ group and its conflicts with downtown residents over late-night noise, trash and criminal activity.

In August, the council agreed to require new bars and alcohol-serving establishments to meet tougher standards, but for the second time in two months decided not to enact a temporary ban against new bars in downtown. Instead, the city is exploring other options, including what’s known as a “deemed approved” ordinance, which would create a new permit system for alcohol-serving establishments.

While Bier Garden supporters said they believed they had been caught up in a larger issue that intensified months before the business opened, the people who appealed the city Planning Commission decision said their noise complaints were directly the result of the Bier Garden. They described the place as a “bar” and not a restaurant.

“We can’t sleep at night — we need your help,” said Nicholas Chan, who lives in the Pacific Station project next door to the Bier Garden.

Chan and other Pacific Station residents urged the City Council to make the Bier Garden close its windows by 8 p.m. — two hours earlier than the 10 p.m. deadline granted by the Planning Commission. Even though the windows are closed now, noise is still a huge problem, they said.

The council majority said the Pacific Station residents should have known they were in a noisy, urban area before they moved in — it’s mentioned in the contracts they signed when they purchased their units.

“There is a difference between living in downtown and living in an area that is not in a commercial area,” Councilman Tony Kranz said.

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