On Tuesday, Aug. 25, Highland City Council voted to approve the expansion of JJ’s Sports Bar and Grill’s alcohol beverage control license, permitting the sale of food and alcohol in its outdoor patio.

The city council voted to overturn a previous denial by the Planning Commission, which was appealed by the business owners.

JJ’s has an alcohol license permitting the sale of alcohol in its indoor facilities and has been offering food and alcoholic beverage service in an outdoor patio based on a temporary coronavirus executive order from the governor.

According to the city staff’s report, the Planning Commission denied the application on July 21 on a 3-2 vote based on concerns over parking in the Carino Plaza, 7955 Webster Ave., where the restaurant is located, and the potential for increased criminal activity.

According to a parking analysis, based on space available and peak business hours for JJ’s and its neighboring businesses, the city staff determined there would be sufficient parking. City staff also reported that, based on calls for service, the police department did not comment on crime issues but supported issuance of the license.

City Councilman John Timmer noted that he remembered past reports of criminal activity near the bar and recommended that the license be issued with a condition that it be reviewed in six months. The rest of city council voted 5-0 in approval of this action. City staff did not have such a resolution prepared so it was agendized for the next council meeting.

Owners Joe Swidan and Darrin McBay shared that after initially closing JJ’s due to state coronavirus safety measures they reopened the restaurant to outdoor service of food and non-alcoholic beverages when permitted to do so, but the business is still struggling.

“It’s been tough times for us with COVID. It’s slashed our revenue immensely and we had to cut staff,” McBay said. “We’re hoping this will help us keep viable and make up that money lost.”

The owners of JJ’s also shared that they plan to staff increased security.

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