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photo credit: Courtesy the City of Sebastopol
The Sebastopol city council has denied an appeal in a pressurized dispute connected to a new restaurant within the city - one with a controversial owner.
 
A routine alcohol use permit for Sebastopol restaurateur Lowell Sheldon’s newest venture called Piala has been much scrutinized.
 
The permit application, in the name of Piala co-owner Jeff Berlin, has again received modifications. This time via the Sebastopol city council.
 
Jesse Hom-Dawson, who has spoken out against Sheldon’s alleged misconduct, filed an appeal to approval for the permit by the city's planning commission. She questioned whether Berlin can be relied upon to uphold the conditions of the permit.
 
"We are asking someone whose livelihood is reliant on Mr. Sheldon's behavior to police him." Hom-Dawson said. "It would also mean that there would be no incentive for Mr. Berlin to report if Mr. Sheldon failed to follow these provisions."
 
Sheldon pushed back against what he said are false accusations and government missteps throughout the permitting process
 
"Prohibiting me from drinking in my business is a condition unrelated to any real life events." Sheldon said. "It assumes that I will harass people while under the influence, which I will not. What should be clear by this point in the process is that when a government body steps outside its ordinary purview, it can easily lose its way."
 
Sebastopol Mayor Patrick Slater defended the decision to deny the appeal and allow the alcohol use permit, but said he laments the need for the council to intervene.
 
"We have an administrative record that shows that there are safeguards in place, that said, I continue to worry about not just this particular instance, but writ large across society, that we are unable to protect those who need protecting." Slater said.
 
The new conditions applied to Piala’s alcohol use permit by the city council allow Sheldon to enter the restaurant only as a normal customer during business hours, and allow him to enter in his capacity as co-owner when the restaurant is closed and no employees are present, given that Berlin is also present.
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