City May Belly Up To Drinks Counter

City May Belly Up To Drinks Counter

Many new restaurants, bars and hotels in Los Angeles will be able to go to a city planning counter and pick up a permit to sell alcohol instead of slogging through a months-long contentious process if one City Council member has his way.

Councilman Paul Krekorian has proposed a change that would allow businesses wishing to sell alcohol for consumption on their premises – including restaurants, theaters, hotels, small beer manufacturers and hosts of on-site tastings – to get their conditional use permits over the counter at the Planning Department as long as they meet a proposed list of 31 conditions.

Krekorian’s measure is still a long way from reality, though.

The motion has been referred to the council’s ad hoc committee on job creation, but there is no time table for the committee to vote on the streamlined permitting process. A spokesman for Krekorian said it’s unlikely a final vote on the measure will happen this year.

The idea, the councilman said in his motion, is to reduce the expense and frustration business owners face in getting alcohol permits. The conditional use permit process often takes more than six months and includes a public hearing that can sometimes turn contentious amid opposition from neighbors. In some cases, according to the motion, the delays and extra costs can be fatal to small-business owners trying to get their ventures off the ground.

“The city’s conditional use permit process for on-site alcohol sales is often time-consuming and costly both for the applicant as well as for city staff and resources,” Krekorian said in the motion. “The delay in this process does very little to improve public safety or quality of life, but it has a serious negative impact on small businesses and frustrates job creation and economic vitality.”

He appears to be looking to head off potential opposition by requiring applicants to meet 31 conditions, including standardized training for employees who sell alcohol to consumers for on-site consumption, installation of electronic age verification devices to curtail underage drinking and a midnight curfew on the sale of alcohol for on-site consumption.

The Planning Department issued about 160 conditional use permits for on-site alcohol sales for the fiscal year ended June 30, according to department spokesman Yeghig Keshishian.

One local land use attorney said Krekorian’s proposal is a good start toward streamlining the conditional use permit process.

“This is a terrific first step,” said Dave Rand, partner in the land-use law firm of Armbruster Goldsmith & Delvac in Brentwood.

– Howard Fine

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