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Riverboat Restaurant owner hopes to avoid rough seas

June 07, 2001

Mathis Winkler

NEWPORT BEACH -- They worried about noise and an invasion of privacy

and pleaded with the City Council for support.

Now, after months of discussions, Linda Isle residents are ready to

try again to reach a compromise with operators of the Newport Riverboat

Restaurant over the use of the boat's decks.

Planning commissioners are expected to vote on a use permit for the

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restaurant at their meeting tonight.

The controversy began when the restaurant's former manager asked city

officials to allow outdoor dining on the boat's bow and stern decks. That

idea wasn't welcomed by those living on the exclusive island, where the

closest lot sits just 157 feet from the boat's bow deck.

Clayton Shurley, who owned the restaurant at the time, said he needed

to add outdoor dining to stay in business. But when Shurley sold the

restaurant to Anthony Pesci and Cheryl L. Minemier in March, the new

owners decided they'd make ends meet without much of what Shurley had

originally proposed.

The restaurateur duo's "request is a lot less intense," said Wayne

Eggleston, who is the executive director for the Newport Harbor Nautical

Museum. The museum owns and occupies the boat and also leases the

restaurant space.

Eggleston added that the new owners felt that expanding the restaurant

would not create more revenue.

"It's expensive to put on all these activities," Eggleston said,

adding that he had been involved in discussions with Linda Isle residents

to resolve the matter. Pesci and Minemier could not be reached for

comment Wednesday.

Margo O'Connor, who serves as the Linda Isle Community Assn.'s board

president and opposed Shurley's plans, said both sides seemed to have

come up with an agreeable position but added that she had not read the

latest proposal.

Other than a "holiday event period" from Dec. 1 to Jan. 5, the new

owners only want to use the bow deck to set up a buffet table during

large functions on the adjacent Texas deck inside. While Pesci and

Minemier do not want to install a 6-foot plexiglass wall on the bow deck

-- a step commissioners had required at an earlier meeting -- they'll set

up a screen during events so residents' privacy will not be disturbed.

Outside dining would only take place on the stern deck, which looks

out over the Back Bay Bridge. Hours of operations would be limited to 10

a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Eggleston said the new proposal fell in line with the boat's primary

purpose.

"This is a museum first and a restaurant second," he said. "We're

going to make certain that activities from the restaurant are in

compliance with the city's codes."

When Shurley owned the restaurant, he had music on the decks,

Eggleston added.

"We don't plan that at all," he said.

City officials said they weren't sure if Shurley had permits to make

use of the decks.

"In my mind, it's unclear whether we authorized" outdoor activities

such as weekend brunches, said James Campbell, a senior planner with the

city.

He added that Shurley's operation didn't comply with the restaurant's

original use permit.

FYI

The Planning Commission will meets at 6:30 p.m. tonight at City Hall,

3300 Newport Blvd.

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