State

Stanislaus County clears way for nightclub

A Modesto bar owner on Tuesday persuaded Stanislaus County leaders to let him open a nightclub in south Modesto, despite fervent opposition from worried neighbors.

Rudy Baca, who runs the Palladium downtown and the Modesto Sports Bar & Grill, said those establishments enjoy a good reputation without safety fears cited by several neighbors of the future Los Artistas Nightclub at the southwest corner of Butte Avenue and Crows Landing Road.

Those concerns had persuaded a majority of county planning commissioners to reject the project, leading to Tuesday's appeal before county supervisors.

Miranda Juevas, who lives a half-block from the now-empty building, said a new bar open until 2 a.m. Thursday through Sunday could produce drunken drivers. Annie Estrada Chapa said she fears alcohol-fueled fighting, and Martha Castro said the neighborhood needs a hardware store or secondhand clothing shop instead of a watering hole.

"All this does is bring headaches to our community," said Raymond Castro, who has lived nearby for three decades and predicted the lounge will engender littering, prostitution and public urination. "We already have enough problems. We don't need any more."

But property owner Francisco Chavez said he will upgrade the neighborhood. He said he will install street lighting, curbs and sidewalks in front of the building, which regularly draws graffiti vandalism. He also owns Los Amigos Tire Pros across the street.

Baca, who has 42 years of nightclub experience, said he will employ 14 or 15 security guards. The club will hold about 400 patrons, he said, and host live bands.

"Give the club a chance to revive and beautify south Modesto," urged Ricardo Cardenas, president of a Crows Landing Road retail association.

Leaders acknowledged neighbors' concerns but said Crows Landing Road is zoned for such commercial uses. If several houses weren't within 200 feet, Los Artistas wouldn't even require a use permit.

Baca and Chavez are "very well respected," Supervisor Bill O'Brien said. "They have done everything the county and city have asked, and they deserve an opportunity to prove themselves. If there are issues, we have the right to revoke this."

Supervisors voted 4-0 in favor of Los Artistas, which could employ 60 people, as long as they build an eight-foot wall in back. Supervisor Jeff Grover was absent.

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at gstapley@modbee.com or 578-2390.

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