Rohnert Park restricts five types of businesses



The Rohnert Park City Council makes no bones about wanting new businesses in the city.

Just not all kinds, at least for now.

Five emergency ordinances adopted Tuesday by the City Council prohibit the following types of businesses from applying for new business licenses for at least 45 days:

; Pawn shops

; Adult entertainment enterprises

; Check-cashing shops

; Cyber cafes

; Electronic message centers

The council was acting to forestall what it and city staff fear will be a rush of such businesses applying to open in Rohnert Park to serve customers of the $800 million, 3,000-slot Graton Resort & Casino, which is to open later this year, perhaps by Nov. 1.

Tuesday's emergency moratorium prohibits for 45 days any permits for the businesses in question; it allows current permits to be renewed if the business is not relocating. The moratorium can be extended for up to two years.

In response to check-cashing business representatives who spoke against the ordinance, council members noted that it was a temporary measure taken while the impact of the casino is assessed.

"This is not a forever moratorium," said Councilman Jake Mackenzie, who said further study would determine whether the ban is justified.

"We're just trying to get control over it, because we have no idea" what the impact will be, Vice Mayor Joe Callinan said.

The city has estimated that the casino, which is to be open 24 hours a day, will attract some 8,000 customers daily. Some would be driven to cash checks at steep interest rates or hock belongings in order to gamble, Assistant City Manager Darrin Jenkins said in his staff report.

Vacationing casino patrons "often seek other entertainment activities when traveling," said Jenkins, referring to adult entertainment and massage businesses.

"The establishment and/or proliferation of these businesses . . . without sufficient time to consider comprehensive regulations, may have negative public health, safety and welfare impacts," he said.

But while the council adopted the moratorium applying to adult entertainment businesses, it pulled another related to massage businesses so the city attorney could study it further.

Check-cashing company officials pointed out that they are regulated by the state and said a moratorium would limit or hamper legitimate businesses that meet a community need.

"Our customers are among the most satisfied of customers at any financial services business," said Jennifer Fisher, regional manager for California Check Cashing Stores, which has branches in Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park.

"Our customers will go to another city if it is hard for them to get a loan or cash a check," she said.

And Sean Murphy of Santa Rosa, who told the council that check-cashing and payroll advance stores have helped him out personally and in his business, said: "If these companies are legitimate prior to the casino, how are they not after the casino?"

The council voted 4-0 to adopt the five ordinances. Councilwoman Gina Belforte was absent.

The council also adopted an interim ordinance halting the issuance of more taxi company permits, which have boomed in recent months with the prospect of casino business.

You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or