A new nightclub for teenagers and young adults opened Thursday night in Santa Rosa in defiance of warnings from city officials that the business lacks proper permits and risks being shut down.
The promoter of PinkDrift dance parties says he's simply trying to offer young people ages 12 to 20 a safe environment to dance and socialize without alcohol or other negative influences associated with adult clubs or unsupervised house parties.
But city officials say the nightclub appears to be a far cry from the family-friendly, cake-and-ice cream birthday parties and jump houses currently featured at the Piner Road location of a business called La Pi?ta.
One look at PinkDrift's website makes it clear the nightclub is a very different use than the existing venue, Assistant City Manager Chuck Regalia said.
"I think the current permit is appropriate for children and families and not for the other group that is proposed," Regalia said.
PinkDrift's website and Facebook page promote it as "The Bay Area's Premier Young Adult Nightclub and Event Center." It features photos of young women in tight clothing with exposed midriffs and crowds dancing beneath strobe lights, and it promises "10-foot dance cages" and a "video wall."
Regalia, in a letter to business and property owners, noted that La Pi?ta's 2012 conditional use permit was granted for a business catering to "children and families" that would include "games, prizes and bounce houses for children to engage in as well as a separate party room for cakes, ice cream and opening presents." The permit envisioned private parties, not ones open to the public, Regalia wrote.
The hours were extended until 1?a.m. in 2013, but a separate request to sell alcohol was denied.
In order to operate the nightclub legally, La Pi?ta owner Joel Correa would need to amend the use permit to reflect the changes, Regalia said. That would require the approval of the Planning Commission, a process that could take three to five months, he said.
Getting approval for the new use is important because it allows the commission to place conditions on the business — such as hours of operation, security, lighting and parking — that ensure the business operates safely, Regalia said.
PinkDrift's promoter, Dane Woods, disagreed with the city's interpretation of the allowable uses and said he doesn't feel he's being treated fairly by the city. He said he plans to appeal.
"It's obvious they've got an agenda here and they don't want us to open," Woods said.
A Rohnert Park entrepreneur and father of two teenage daughters, Woods said he proposed the PinkDrift parties after talking to the building's owner about the financially struggling La Pi?ta, which he described as "like a Mexican Chuck E. Cheese's." The idea was for the two businesses to jointly use the space at different times.
Woods said he had operated two successful young adult nightclubs in Chicago, where he used to live. He said security will be robust and separate parties will be held for 12- to 15-year-olds and 16- to 20-year-olds. Admission will be $10 for the younger group and $20 for the older group.
But days before the original June 6 opening date, city building officials learned of unpermitted construction on the property, including a new kitchen and dance stage. Woods removed the improvements and the city closed the code enforcement case.