Unspecial Delivery

Newport officials freak over wine delivered with your pizza

Photo by James BunoanHotties Pizza was supposed to be about the pizza. Large, thick, gourmet pizza made of homemade dough and slathered in sautéed spinach, freshly sliced garlic, shredded Fontina and roasted tomato sauce. It was supposed to be about fine wine and salads and these little breakfast pastries with eggs and cheese.

Instead, it got to be about some reckless, insane plot to deliver booze to minors and kegs to the drunken throngs that plague the Balboa Peninsula on July 4. The place isn't even open yet—won't open until mid-March at the earliest—and locals are already denouncing it as some out-of-control plot to pour even more alcohol into Newport Beach's parties.

What did Hotties Pizza do to bring upon itself the wrath of Newport? It proposed to deliver beer and wine along with its pizza.

"We just want to have a restaurant," said Bonnie Pascua, one of Hotties' founders and the restaurant's future manager. "We want to be part of the community. I just don't know how they make this connection between the Fourth of July and us."

Even racing down Newport Boulevard at 50 miles per hour toward the Peninsula, it's not hard to miss the "Hotties Pizza" rooftop sign. Mostly, you see the picture of, well, a hottie—a tall, skinny blonde styled after one of those women they used to paint on the noses of World War II bombers.

Inside, it seems every surface is painted yellow. Pascua is seated amongst a stack of chairs, a coffee machine, a half-covered display case and a refrigerator. She's in her 30s; petite; with light red hair; and wearing a black-leather jacket, jeans and faux-snakeskin boots.

"The police and ABC [the department of Alcoholic Beverage Control] had no problem with what we were going to do," she said. "I sat down with an ABC investigator and asked him to find a problem with what we were planning. He couldn't find anything."

While Hotties Pizza would have been the first Newport establishment to offer home beer-and-wine delivery, the police were unconcerned. Indeed, the Dec. 12, 2002, report on Hotties Pizza written by Newport Beach Police officer Susan Seviane barely mentions their request to deliver alcohol with food. While the report states, "It is difficult for the police department to endorse" Hotties Pizza's request for a liquor license—there are already 24 liquor licenses in that neighborhood—Seviane made clear that the department has "no serious concerns in regards to the proposed operation."

In fact, Seviane laid out just three requirements for alcohol delivery: the customer furnish the driver with valid ID showing he or she is 21 or over, the customer sign for the delivery, and the restaurant maintain records of all such transactions. Pascua and Hotties' owners agreed without hesitation.

"Assuming the issues and recommended conditions identified in this report are addressed by the [conditional-use permit], the police department has no objection to the operation as described by the applicant," concluded Seviane.

For four of the seven Newport Beach Planning Commissioners, which had endorsed the Hotties Pizza proposal, that police report was enough. The commission approved Hotties Pizza on Jan. 9.

"The liquor-delivery service was just a luxury," said Pascua. "It was for people who just got home and wanted to sit by the fireplace and eat and have a glass of wine but didn't want to go out. It was going to be such an awesome service. But then it got out-of-hand."

Pascua can thank Councilman Gary Proctor for that. Proctor represents West Newport, though he actually lives in San José—an apparent violation of local residency requirements for council members, though no official has yet done anything about it. During the Jan. 28 City Council meeting, Proctor and his colleagues considered the Hotties matter, speaking gravely about safety and the law. They spoke of the perils of underage drinking. They spoke of the need to control the madness of July 4.

Two residents also spoke. Allowing Hotties Pizza to deliver beer and wine "would be insane," said Laura Dietz. Nancy Clark said she was "shocked" the council was even discussing the matter, considering how underage drinking was "an epidemic."

The council agreed, voting 7-0 to kill the alcohol-delivery proposal. Those who want alcohol in Newport, the officials seemed to be saying, are going to have to drive to get it.

"We've all been underage drinkers, trying to scam liquor," said Pascua. "We know the tricks. What we were planning wasn't going to be a problem. Yet a lot of people are looking at us like we are pushers. This is pizza! Family-style dining! We're trying to start a whole different deal from Josh Slocum's or your corner bar. It will all be upscale here. We want it all done right. As hard as it is to get a liquor license, we weren't going to risk it on something ridiculous."

 
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