In April of this year, nightclub impresarios John Lyons and David Dean announced they were taking over 4th&B and would reopen it as the Avalon after a major renovation.
Lyons told the Reader in May, “We would love to see it happen this fall.” When they announced in July that the first concert at Avalon would be the Black Crowes on December 11, insiders were skeptical, as renovations have not begun at the downtown venue.
The Black Crowes show has been moved to the Balboa Theatre, and speculation is brewing about what is happening with Avalon.
When the Avalon owners took over, they attempted to purchase the liquor license from the previous 4th&B owner. The parties could not agree on a price, so Lyons and Dean purchased a different license that would allow Avalon to continue with the full liquor/no food policy that was in place at 4th&B.
But new, imported licenses can draw extra scrutiny and investigation. In April, San Diego police filed a “protest” with the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control regarding the transfer of that new license to Avalon.
According to sources with ABC liquor-license experience, filing a protest is a common practice by police agencies so that the police can ensure certain “conditions” can be added to the license agreement, such as no live music or no sales of beer-to-go. Once the police, the ABC, and the licensee agree on the conditions, the license gets approved.
State ABC administrator Jennifer Hill says that the Avalon license protest filed by the SDPD is pending and an investigation is ongoing.
SDPD Lt. Dan Plein oversees licensing. He says that his department is just now focusing on the Avalon license and that a 4 a.m. closing is one of the issues “on the table.” He says the Gaslamp and P.B. areas have a much higher crime rate than the rest of the city, and that impacts what his department looks at when granting new liquor licenses.
One insider suggests that politics may be at play. Lyons and Dean are known for their EDM (electronic dance music)venues in L.A., Las Vegas, and San Diego. They announced Avalon would be a state-of-the-art venue that would host EDM shows as well as concerts. Could the City of San Diego have reservations about an EDM mecca?
“It is no secret that it was Kevin Faulconer who intervened and basically made it impossible to continue those Sunday EDM shows at the Wavehouse [in Mission Beach],” says the insider, who suggests there might be an anti-EDM sentiment within the city. “That promoter [LED] moved their operation to the Sports Arena. Those shows are doing quite well. But you have to know that the cops cannot be happy that these huge legal raves are now happening at the Sports Arena.”
Lt. Plein says his department is not concerned with the type of music when reviewing a venue’s license.
Decrying what he calls a “twisted conspiracy” perpetrated by an October 10 U-T article, Avalon co-owner David Dean says there is nothing to read into the fact that the Black Crowes show was moved from Avalon to the Balboa Theatre.
“It is just taking longer to [to build out Avalon],” says Dean. “There is no conspiracy. There are no problems.”
Dean admitted that he didn’t want to commence construction until all the permits and licenses are in place but would not discuss whether the 4 a.m. closing time might be a deal-breaker.
“The Black Crowes was booked by a third party, AEG. We told them they could certainly have Avalon for that show if we were ready. We simply weren’t ready. We’re here for the long haul. We don’t want to rush anything...it will open when it opens.”
One insider thinks that the real villain is the SDPD, which is dragging its feet.
“You’re talking a half-million in liquor sales each month that Avalon would be making. That’s $40,000 a month in sales tax the city is not getting. Doesn’t anyone in the city get this?”