By Linda Shin
Owners of a downtown area cafe, who received a $100 fine from police for staying open 24 hours, are planning to contest the citation, saying it was spurred by the large number of homeless people who loiter outside.
According to Roland Williams, code enforcement officer for the city's zoning department, the cafe, located near the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Center Street, currently has a permit that only allows it to stay open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. On Thursday, Berkeley police cited the store for violating the zoning regulations.
But Andy Chow, a co-owner of Bay Bakery and Cafe, said he applied for a 24-hour permit two years ago and has been staying open for 24 hours ever since. Williams said, however, that the bakery had never applied for a permit before Sept. 30 of this year.
Williams said the owners of Bay Bakery applied for a permit on Sept. 30 that would allow the store to extend its hours of operation, but said it takes approximately 30 days to perform the "general staff review" that finally grants a business the permit.
Norse Mitchell, a co-owner of Bay Bakery, said current problems date back a year and a half when the bakery first decided to stay open 24 hours.
At the time, Mitchell said that neighboring stores started to complain to the city about the odors emanating from the store. The city subsequently said it would shut the store down unless something was done. In response, Chow and Mitchell installed an $80,000 smog hok unit to vent odor and smoke.
To offset the cost of the unit, Mitchell said the owners decided to stay open 24 hours. When they tried to apply for a modified-use permit, Dan Marks, then a manager of planning in the zoning department, said the store should take care of the smog hok unit first and not worry about the hours of operation.
Mitchell added that the city knew the store was open 24 hours because neighboring stores went to city council meetings and complained about the extended hours.
"There are probably a lot of businesses that are operating outside their use permits," Williams said. "Unless it becomes a problem, we are not aware of it. We are not a proactive department."
The owners have accused police officers of targeting the store because it attracts homeless people, a charge Berkeley police Capt. Bobby Miller denied.
Miller said the police are focusing attention on this issue because the bakery owners are in violation of the permit.
Even though police have issued warnings concerning hours of operation on three separate occasions this month, Thursday's citation marked the first and only official citation concerning hours of operation.
Mitchell said that since receiving the citation, Bay Bakery has been closing at 10 p.m. out of "courtesy" to the city.
Mike Tolbert, senior planner for the zoning department who is performing the general staff review for Bay Bakery, scheduled a meeting to take place today between the owners of Bay Bakery and the police officer who issued the citation.
Earlier this year, Fred's Market, located on Telegraph Avenue near Dwight Way, faced a similar problem. The zoning office said the store was illegally operating until midnight, although its permit only allowed it to stay open until 10 p.m. The owners disagreed with the zoning board, saying it had filed the proper permits.
In August, the city's zoning board agreed with the store and allowed it to stay open until midnight.
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