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Eatery’s plans irk residents

The chain Chronic Tacos shouldn’t expand its operations to include a dining area and a license to serve beer because it would make the eatery too noisy, neighbors say.

July 29, 2009|By Brianna Bailey

Nothing goes with the carne asada at Chronic Tacos on West Coast Highway like an ice-cold beer. But it doesn’t go down so well when it comes with a side order of outraged citizenry.

Concerned with what they believe is a glut of bars in West Newport, a group of residents has blocked Chronic Tacos’ plans to expand its small take-out taco operation at 4525 W. Coast Hwy. to serve beer and include a sit-down dining area with 15 flat-screen TVs.

“Chronic Tacos wants to paint it like, ‘Hey, we want to be this friendly neighborhood restaurant, but they want to serve pitchers of beer and have flat-screen TVs — people don’t just go to those establishments to get a taco and leave. They go to hang out. It’s going to turn into another sports bar,” said Newport Beach resident Joe Reiss, who, along with others lobbied the Newport Beach Planning Commission to block Chronic Tacos’ expansion plans in West Newport last month.

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Now the restaurant is appealing the city’s decision to deny its expansion plans to the Newport Beach City Council. The council is tentatively slated to take up the matter on Sept. 8.

Chronic Tacos’ founder Daniel Biello says he can’t afford not to expand. The Chronic Tacos’ West Newport location makes him about $1.3 million a year using only 700 square feet of space.

“We’re completely tearing apart every square foot to do it — I need to expand next door, who knows when the space will be available again to do it,” Biello said.

The cost of expanding would raise his rent an extra $5,000 a month, so Biello wants to sell beer to help pay for the improvements, but only until 10 p.m, he said.

“All I’m asking for is to be able to serve a glass of wine or Corona with your food, and I got denied,” Biello said.

He also said concerns about parking aren’t warranted because most of his customers bike or walk from the beach to the restaurant.

The taco stand on West Coast Highway was Biello’s first to open eight years ago in what is now a 20-restaurant empire that spans three states. The chain includes two Chronic Cantinas, one in Costa Mesa, which serve alcohol until 2 a.m.

“I get the sense that people think I’m trying to open a cantina, but that’s not the case,” Biello said. “I would never try to open a bar in Newport.”

Newport Beach resident Drew Wetherholt, who owns rental property in West Newport near the taco eatery, is concerned a Chronic Tacos expansion and the addition of beer to its menu will bring crime to the area and take away much-needed parking.

“Chronic Tacos are actually good tacos, but whether you want to call it a bar or a restaurant, it’s catering to the college crowd that is drinking heavily and excessively. That’s going to affect business and property owners in a negative fashion,” Wetherholt said.


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