At last night’s meeting of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s Land Use Committee, local residents strongly opposed an application to allow the sales of a full line of alcoholic beverages from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. at a new restaurant at the old FIN Asian Tapas space at 5750 Melrose Ave. And committee members eventually agreed, voting unanimously to recommend that the GWNC board formally oppose the application.
The issue was the only agendized item at last night’s monthly committee meeting, which allowed for a lengthier-than-usual discussion.
The application for the renewal of the space’s conditional use permit was first reviewed by the committee in November, 2022. But at that time members objected to the proposed liquor sales hours of 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily, and also expressed concerns about late night noise and parking in the adjacent residential neighborhood. The committee voted at the November meeting to recommend that the GWNC board oppose the application (which the board did in December), and also asked the applicants to do some outreach about their proposal to the adjacent neighborhood.
At last night’s session, project representative Neill Brower reported that the property owners have now canvassed the neighborhood, and received support from 25 nearby neighbors, including all but two tenants in the apartment building nearest the restaurant, as well as several single family homeowners. Brower said the applicants are also now proposing to downsize the outdoor dining space from 45 to 31 seats, to allow for the addition of an access lift, and plan to close that space at midnight (though indoor food and drink service would still continue until 2 a.m.), which should help reduce late-night noise.
But Brower’s proposals were met with quick and firm opposition by nearly 20 neighbors who attended the meeting, 10 of whom – most representing a coalition called Lucerne-Arden Neighbors United – spoke up during the public comment period.
The group’s spokesperson, Sam Uretsky, said the coalition has received responses from at least 60 neighbors opposing the restaurant’s application, with at least 20 more willing to sign a petition. Uretsky also said the proposed liquor sales hours are “ridiculous,” and the application would essentially establish a late-night bar in what is otherwise a quiet residential neighborhood. Uretsky said no other nearby restaurants are open until 2 a.m. (most close at 10 or 11 p.m.), and the neighborhood has “no parking” restrictions after 11 p.m., which will make parking difficult for patrons after that. “This used to be a quiet, neighborly restaurant,” Uretsky said, “and this is not that.”
Neighbor Todd Clemens echoed Uretsky’s remarks, and further commented that while the applicants are now offering to close their outdoor dining space at midnight, it’s just a verbal offer, and the 2 a.m. closing time requested in the formal application has not changed.
Jennifer Dorn, who lives on the 600 block of N. Lucerne Ave., said her husband felt misled by owner Brandon Behrstock’s outreach effort, which Dorn said only mentioned re-approval of the restaurant’s existing liquor permit and not the extended operating hours. Dorn said she opposes any alcohol sales at the location after 11 p.m.
But when acting committee chair Tommy Atlee asked Brower why the new restaurant would need such lengthy hours, Brower didn’t answer directly, and just said the applicants are very willing to attach specific operating conditions to an approval of the application, and they would be bound to operate within those conditions.
Meanwhile, several other residents mentioned that they’d lived in the area 20-30 years ago, when another late-night bar was open nearby and created many issues for the neighbors.
In a similar vein, Larchmont Village Neighborhood Association president and GWNC board member Charles D’Atri reminded attendees about a late-night liquor permit obtained about 10 years ago by a restaurant a bit further east in Larchmont Village. That establishment, he said, was owned by a “bad actor,” and eventually shut down, but the conditional use permit allowed future restaurants to open in that location with the same hours. And because liquor permits stay with the property, not the specific business, D’Atri said approval of late night hours with this application could set the same ongoing precedent for this location.
Finally, property owner Behrstock responded that he and his sister, who did the neighborhood outreach for the application, did mention the proposed new hours in their outreach materials. He also said they’ve owned the property for nearly 20 years and fully support residents’ desire for a “cozy eatery neighbors will love.”
In committee discussion after the public comments, committee member Daniela Prowizor-Lacayo asked if the applicants would consider changing the operating hours on their application (a request committee member David Trainer said was also made at the November meeting), but Brower again offered only a discussion of operating conditions that might be placed on the requested hours of operation.
Finally, Prowizor-Lacayo made a motion to recommend that the GWNC board continue to oppose the application because the applicants did not revise their proposal as requested, because they are continuing to request official alcohol service hours until 2 a.m., and also because they do not have a specific parking plan in place, as also requested by the Land Use Committee in November. Trainer seconded the motion, and it passed unanimously…followed by several expressions of thanks from neighbors.
In addition to the one agendized discussion last night, the meeting did include a few brief “heads-up” items worth noting:
- Representatives for a new four-story, 15-unit mixed-use development planed for 531 N. Larchmont Blvd., which was mentioned recently in the UrbanizeLA blog, will make a presentation about that project at the April Land Use Committee meeting. (See below for meeting details.)
- According to Land Use Committee member Jane Usher and Hancock Park Homeowners Association president Cindy Chvatal, a neighborhood group working with the developers of a new mixed used project at 5001 Wilshire Blvd. (the NW corner of Wilshire and Highland), which was discussed in detail by the LUC last summer and eventually supported by the GWNC board, has run into new issues with the project. Chvatal reported that a detailed agreement worked out between the neighbors and developers was never officially attached to the city’s approval of the project, and there have now been some changes in the developers’ plans, which were not part of the original agreement. Chvatal said the neighborhood committee will be meeting with the developers again this Thursday to discuss the situation.
- Atlee reported that because the state’s COVID-19 emergency orders, allowing public meetings to be held online instead of in person, have expired, the GWNC will be returning to in-person meetings in April (at least for a few months while state legislators consider new amendments to the Brown Act, which governs public meetings). So the next Land Use Committee meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 25, in the Board Room at Marlborough School, 250 S. Rossmore Ave.
- The GWNC’s April board meeting will also be held in person, on Wednesday, April 12, at 6:30 p.m. at the Ebell of Los Angeles…but the board will also hold one more Special Meeting online, tonight – Wednesday, March 29, at 6 p.m. via Zoom. See the GWNC website for the meeting agenda, link, and documents.)
If there’s a petition in opposition and it needs names, I’ll sign it.