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Gumby’s battles for liquor license

The popular chain, Gumby’s Pizza Feb. 15, recently announced possible expansion for a new location.
Photo by: Jennifer Chacon | Staff Photographer

By Jonathan Gonzalez

The San Marcos City Council denied an application for Gumby’s to retain a Conditional Use Permit for the sale of mixed alcohol beverages, putting to rest an ongoing battle between Gumby’s Pizza and members and business owners of the community.

The alcohol permit would have been an addition to Gumby’s new location on 312 West Hopkins Street, located across from Tantra Coffeehouse.

On Oct. 24, 2016, Gumby’s applied for a Conditional Use Permit for the sale of alcohol for onsite consumption. The request was approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission Jan. 10, which facilitated criticism in the community.

Immediately following the PZC approval of the permit, Cathy Dillon, co-owner of Crystal River Inn, began a petition in demand that the city council reconsider the consequences of consuming alcohol at the downtown business.

“In the right location, there’s nothing wrong with Gumby’s request to have a bar, but in this location there is a problem,” Dillon said. “Hopkins Street is in danger of becoming an entertainment district.”

Multiple community members also felt the permit was granted without reviewing pertinent information, such as business location and the effects on surrounding occupants.

“I’m opposed to this Conditional Use Permit and any future CUPs, until a firm and legal buffer zone is implemented to include business, professional and residential areas. I’m not opposed to Gumby’s as a business. It’s a municipal issue,” said Kathy Morris. San Marcos resident.

Residents voiced concerns at the Feb. 7 city council meeting. Gumby’s close proximity to residential and historic areas was a big issue to Kathy Morris, who did not wish to have the responsibility of dealing with “the lingering odor of stale alcohol and urine” left behind.

However, not all those gathered at the city council meeting were against the permit. Some residents held signs that read “I Love Gumby’s” to show support for the local business.

“To pretend that we have some sort of alternative economy that isn’t revolving around (the restaurant industry) in the downtown area would be us lying to ourselves,” said Zach Halfin Marcos resident in support of Gumby’s. “These guys are investing in a building that, as far as I know, has been abandoned for the last five years. They are not trying to open a bar, but a restaurant.”

Forrest Higdon, co-owner of Gumby’s, was also present at the city council meeting to make a brief presentation about the outline of their plan, as well as make it clear that CUPs have already been granted to surrounding businesses.

“Late night restaurants are not new to this area,” Higdon said, in his presentation to the council. “Three locations to the west of our location on 312 West Hopkins location already have (CUPs) to serve alcohol, including Zelick’s and Palmer’s.”

Higdon also stated that Gumby’s first priority was in the restaurant business, not alcohol sales.

“We started in San Marcos seven years ago as a delivery/take-out only location, expanded to a dining room where we offer a buffet and we are doing this to increase our business capacities for delivery,” Higdon said. “The permit we’re requesting limits our sales of alcohol to less than 50 percent of our gross sales.”

After more than an hour of public comments, the application for the alcohol permit was overturned with a vote of 5-2 by the city council.

However, Higdon said that the decision will not affect the move to the new location.

“We’re going to have to obviously circle back and figure out how to continue on,” Higdon said. “We had originally intended to open by July. I think we’re still aiming for that.”

Higdon said he does not see the business reapplying for the conditional permit in the future, and will instead, choose to focus on opening their new location without the bar.