downtown los gatos chamber of commerce promenade
The first Chamber of Commerce-sponsored Promenade is June 16, 5-9pm, in downtown Los Gatos. Concerns about underage drinking mean some changes are being made this summer, including a requirement that people’s IDs be checked, so that ABC-required wrist bands can be issued to the over-21 crowd. Photo: Judy Peterson

The Los Gatos Chamber of Commerce has been busy planning this summer’s downtown Promenades, with the first two scheduled for June 16 and 23 from 5-9pm.

As was the case last summer, the town will close Santa Cruz Avenue to vehicles between Bachman Avenue and Main Street, allowing residents and visitors to stroll up and down the avenue and enjoy music, while also enjoying an alcoholic beverage.

Problem was, last year a few folks enjoyed a few too many cocktails. There was concern, too, that the under-21 crowd was taking advantage of the Promenades’ open atmosphere.  

“In regard to concerns we saw last year, we did have a couple of alcohol-related concerns but we don’t have a lot of data to look back on,” Police Chief Jamie Field said.

The police department is assigning two officers on overtime to police the Promenades, Field said, with the Chamber picking up the price tag.

To avoid alcohol-related problems, the town council considered a proposal Tuesday night to allow for three beer gardens, where people could purchase alcohol. IDs would be checked and wristbands issued. Under the plan, all outdoor alcohol consumption would take place in the beer gardens.

In other words, people couldn’t stroll the street and drink at the same time.

The Chamber’s Randi Chen pointed out that the idea behind the Promenades is to encourage people to patronize downtown retail shops and restaurants.

And Time Out owner Ginger Rowe told council members that beer gardens would undermine the true meaning of the word “Promenade.”

“The community sentiment has been about connecting with friends, bringing out town friends to our community event, and being able to shop, eat and socialize in a flexible setting,” Rowe said. “All businesses are working on strained resources to manage and keep ourselves open and available for the event, as well as on a daily basis, just like the police department. We are losing the essence and genesis of this concept when we propose things like walled gardens.”

Rootstock/Montebello Market co-owner Jim Foley also weighed in.

“The beer garden requirement is absurd, it will ruin the events,” Foley said. “It will separate the people from the entertainment and businesses, and in reality the beer garden won’t be able to be controlled as envisioned. These are the kinds of events that are bringing visitors, shoppers and diners back to Los Gatos—a vision that has been supported by the town council in recent years.”

There were no speakers in favor of the beer garden concept.

Instead of beer gardens, Councilmember Marico Sayoc made a motion that the Chamber set-up “dispensing points” where IDs would be checked and wristbands issued by “paid staff that would be monitoring those IDs and those wristbands. Alcohol would be provided via token and again that would be by paid staff.”

The Chamber is also responsible for hiring paid staff to monitor all the entrances to Santa Cruz Avenue, meaning all streets will have security checkpoints to make sure people don’t bring alcohol into the Promenade or leave with it.

Sayoc’s motion was unanimously approved by the council. 

The new rules also mean people can only purchase one drink at a time and alcohol sales will cease at 8pm. The Chamber will post signs outlining the requirements so “everyone understands expectations,” Sayoc said.

Post-meeting, Chamber Executive Director Catherine Somers said the new staffing requirements will be expensive—she expects to hire anywhere from 12-15 security guards for each Promenade.

Previously, the town allocated $120,000 from the 2021 American Rescue Act funds for the Promenades; the owner of the Lester Square shopping center is a $10,000 sponsor, bringing the 2022 budget to $130,000. [edit: The $10,000 sponsorship was subtracted from the $120,000 total the Chamber received from the Town.]

As a result, Somers is reviewing the budget to make sure there’s enough money to meet the security requirements for the seven Promenades that are planned. If there’s not, then she will cut back on the number of Promenades.

What’s certain is that there will be Promenades on June 16 and 23, and at least three restaurants will be selling beer, wine and/or cocktails: the Bywater, Enoteca La Storia and Campo di Bocce.

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