The 900 Club in Manhattan Beach is normally not the type of place to attract attention and they like it that way. The nondescript former residence on Manhattan Avenue and 9th Street has operated as a private social club since 1973.
But, when the club petitioned the city for an extra hour of service on Thursdays to 1 a.m. and six more special events per year, noise issues with the neighbors took center stage.
After a public hearing lasting several hours on Tuesday with more than 40 residents and club members testifying, the council unanimously granted the club its request with conditions. One provision is that owners replace south-facing windows to decrease noise and keep them along with the door on that side closed after 10 p.m.
A group of residents, led by Don McPherson who lives nearby, testified to continued alleged noise violations. In making his appeal, McPherson even hired an audio expert to testify to the decibel levels exceeding allowable limits after midnight.
McPherson also hired an architect who expressed concerns about safety at the exclusive club.
“It’s a house that’s been converted into an entertainment space,” said architect Michael Rendler. “That stairway exiting out of the second floor is tenuous at best for emptying 90 people.”
After questioning by Councilmember Richard Montgomery, Rendler admitted that he had not actually been inside the 900 Club to make those assessments.
During testimony at the planning commission in March, Fire Chief Robert Espinosa testified to the club’s safety and regular inspections. The floor plan will also be reviewed to meet occupancy standards, based on one of the conditions.
In making his case for an extra hour on Thursdays to the city council, 900 Club general manager Dave Rohrbacher said that what they were asking for was minor.
“For the past 20 years to ask someone to leave at 11:45 has been tough,” Rohrbacher said. “We are not asking for 2 a.m. on weekends. I represent 600 people, 482 of which took their time to write something. I’m just the gatekeeper. All we want is to not go to bed at 11:45.”
In addition to the extra hour on Thursdays, the club can now sell alcohol right up until closing time: 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Previously, the club had to stop selling alcohol an hour before closing.
Under the new use agreement, up to 24 special events with amplified sound or live music beyond the normal house stereo will be permitted. That's six more than the previous agreement. In addition to other conditions, dancing is permitted on Friday and Saturday nights only and limited to a 12-foot by 12-foot maximum area on the second floor, according to the resolution.
Complaints from neighbors over noise and disorderly conduct from the club and the downstairs bar have occurred since the establishments opened in 2003. In 2014, the 900 Club was found to have violated several conditions of their use permit. Those issues were resolved with increased monitoring and additional conditions, which were reportedly adhered.
In testimony before the city council, at least two residents who lived within 50 of the establishment had no complaints, while others further away were bothered by noise.
The council also put a one-year review in place to revisit the conditions.
“This is a classic example of the tension that happen when you live near the downtown area or frankly anywhere in town that requires a certain amount of acceptance of the area you are buying into," said Councilmember Steve Napolitano. "Trying to strike a balance is really key here.”