Andrew Somo
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Andrew Somo, the owner of A-1 Hookah Bar in Spring Valley, is trading in his liquor license for a beer license because he wants a nicer clientele. But to do that, he has had to pitch his plan to the San Diego County Planning Commission; undergo a review as if he were pursuing a new license from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control; and be reinspected by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

"We want to go from hard liquor to just beer," Somo said. "This is a quiet and friendly establishment, and we'd like to focus on having a regular clientele like a coffee shop, where you can have a beer, instead of having a crazy drunk crowd on weekends…. People show up already drunk and you have to deal with them. I like a nice, well-behaved clientele where our customers can have a nice times, stay for a while, and don't have to deal with people I don't want to deal with either."

John Carr, spokesman for the state's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, said they don't keep records on how frequently establishments surrender broad licenses for more limited ones.

"We have 83 types of licenses," he said. "I couldn't get that information without intensive study."

Going from serving hard liquor to beer lowers the entry age requirement from 21 to 18, Somo said.

On August 4, Somo presented his plans to a mostly receptive Casa De Oro Planning Group, which voted to support his proposal — one more step in his bid to reduce the scope of alcohol he can serve.

His establishment, on Campo Road, is a two-level affair, with roomy booths of  leather couches and marble-top tables. Because of a high-grade ventilation system, the air smells clean with a just tinge of orange-tobacco aroma. On a recent weeknight, college students worked on laptops in two of the sitting areas while a couple chatted quietly in a third.

"If you don't like hookah, you can have a coffee or a beer or play pool," Somo said. "We want the younger crowd that hangs out with their friends and does their school work — you end up with better people and a nicer crowd."

In the mysteries of requirements for reducing the scope of the liquor license came a strange ABC requirement: a full-sized pool table on the upper level that is okay when Somo serves martinis has to be removed to get the beer license.

"It's a nice table and people have fun when they play," Somo said. "But if they say it has to go, we'll remove it."

Somo said he believes revenue will go down in the coming year as a result of the change, but, he says, “It's going to build my business for the future and help me keep the people I want to serve."

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AlexClarke Sept. 7, 2014 @ 8:44 a.m.

Its Spring Valley and there is no nice crowd. Spring Valley is a third world toilet which is just perfect environment for a hookah lounge.


escortalex Sept. 8, 2014 @ 1:23 p.m.

I'm sure the reporter misunderstood something. There's no way he could have got the facts SO wrong.

  1. According to the ABC website, this business has a beer & wine license now --it has NEVER been allowed to sell hard liquor.

  2. This business is getting a beer-only license that requires them to sell sandwiches or snacks, but not have a full kitchen or menu

  3. The new license will mean they can't sell WINE. I grew up in Spring Valley, and I can attest to the fact that the chardonnay-sipping ruffians are a real big problem in that community.

  4. The new license means minors will be allowed in the bar. Not just 18 and up, but anyone of any age is allowed in a type 40 establishment. The operator may SAY he'll keep kids out, and maybe there are such requirements in CA tobacco laws, but there's no such requirement under ABC law.

I'm not against alcohol or hookah, for that matter. However, let's inject a bit of intellectual honesty here: The only valid reason for swapping the license type is so that people under 21 will be allowed into this establishment.


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