Supervisors vote to allow amusement businesses in unincorporated area


Last updated 5/5/2022 at 2:15pm

SAN DIEGO – The San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a board letter put forth by Supervisor Joel Anderson and Vice Chair Nora Vargas that will provide economic opportunities for small businesses in the unincorporated county. Their board action was inspired by a letter written to Supervisor Anderson from an Alpine constituent and was approved unanimously at the April 26 Board of Supervisors meeting.

The county currently has an ordinance in place that prevents a business in the unincorporated area from having coin-operated amusement devices, such as an arcade game machine, from being in the same area that alcohol is served. The City of San Diego does not have a similar restriction.

This small but important difference prevents a business owner in the unincorporated area from opening up the same type of establishment as a business owner in the city. Gian Paolo Croce, an Alpine resident, brought this issue to the attention of his representative, Anderson, through a letter.

Eleven years ago, Croce and his family took over a local restaurant that has been in Alpine for more than 25 years. To make their restaurant more family friendly, the Croce family turned what was once a bar adjacent to the restaurant into an arcade gaming room for children. Croce described the setup as a dream come true.

Several months later, the Croce family was notified that they needed to apply for an amusement device license. That’s how they found out about the provision that didn’t allow them to have these machines in the same vicinity where they were selling alcohol.

Croce attended the Board of Supervisors meeting and thanked the board for considering the proposal. “We have become the community meeting area where families do come together and that was our intention all along,” shared Croce. “I hope we can be represented equally to the other areas of San Diego.”

“I am thankful to Vice Chair Vargas for partnering with me on this board letter, and to the rest of my board colleagues for supporting it,” said Anderson. “This ordinance repeal is one positive step towards giving every opportunity to small business owners in the unincorporated area and helping those communities thrive economically.”

“As businesses continue to recover from the impacts of the pandemic, we as policymakers, have a responsibility to continue to remove barriers so that everyone can reach an equitable recovery,” said Vargas. “Removing this outdated ordinance that prohibited coin operated devices in unincorporated areas of the county, will create opportunities for economic prosperity in these regions so that everyone can thrive, and not just survive.”

County staff will return to the Board of Supervisors in 90 days with a plan to repeal the ‘amusement devices’ ordinance. If ultimately approved, businesses will no longer need a county permit to operate these devices but will remain subject to state licensing in order to serve alcohol.


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