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BCC Skirmish Over Country Mart Restaurant

FARMshop seeks to sell beer and wine on premises, which requires approval from a Los Angeles City Zoning Administrator.

Neighbors immediately adjacent on Avondale hope to minimize any irritants generated by the restaurant, such as noise, traffic, parking or disturbances caused by those who have imbibed too much.

Such a position is consistent with the philosophy of the Brentwood Community Council, which works to protect quality of life in Brentwood.

The conflict arose because the neighbors who live right next to the Country Mart said they wanted to represent themselves in negotiating conditions (hours of operation, etc.) with FARMshop, without influence from or final approval by the BCC.

Flora Krisiloff, speaking for the neighbors, asked the BCC to give the neighbors time to negotiate conditions directly with the Country Mart.

Krisiloff lives close to the Country Mart and has been involved in discussions like this for many years, both with owners of the Country Mart and the building on the southeast corner of 26th and San Vicente.

Members of the BCC board said the arrival of a new restaurant could potentially impact all of Brentwood, not just the immediate neighbors, and therefore the Brentwood Community Council, which represents the entire community, including commercial interests, should weigh in.

There is a hearing of the Zoning Administrator on this matter October 27, so any positions taken by the BCC or other parties are to be submitted prior to that. It’s possible there will be more time for additional suggestions and modifications after that hearing.

It wasn’t clear that the BCC and the neighborhood group actually disagree about conditions. The BCC had asked the neighbors to inform BCC as to what the neighbors had in mind, but the neighborhood group had not informed BCC of any specifics as of the time of the last monthly BCC meeting, held October 5. The BCC Land Use Committee has come up with a list of about 50 items it would like included in any final agreement, including an understanding that there would be no “Happy Hours†or a cocktail lounge.
Observers speculate that the immediate neighbors, who have hired attorney Rob Glushon to represent them, might seek conditions more stringent than those that might be sought by the BCC. The neighbors seek to achieve a private agreement with the Country Mart, with conditions included that the City of Los Angeles can’t mandate, according to Glushon.

In particular, the homeowners hope to pin down an agreement with the Country Mart that the beer and wine license is for FARMshop only, and that if FARMshop ever left or closed, the license would disappear as well. Beer and wine licenses are attached to a specific location. There currently is no beer and wine license for any location within the Country Mart, so to get one approved requires a conditional use permit from the city.

This “FARMshop only†license proposal removes the fear that a sports bar or other similar venue would someday take over the FARMshop location, should FARMshop move or close.
Moreover, the Country Mart is reportedly willing to agree that, if FARMshop’s beer and wine license gets approved, there will be no additional requests for other liquor (or beer and wine) licenses at the Country Mart.

The City of Los Angeles could not legally make such an agreement, according to Glushon – thus the private negotiation. The city is not known for strong enforcement in matters like this, Glushon added. A private agreement is more enforceable, he said.

While more stringent conditions might be favorable to the immediate neighbors, many in Brentwood have heard positive things about FARMshop and want to see the restaurant happily ensconced at the Country Mart.

Those who favor the restaurant are concerned that if the immediate neighbors make things too tough for FARMshop, FARMshop might decide to not open at this location.
Several years ago, Trader Joe’s proposed to open a store at the Country Mart, but decided against it after facing opposition from the neighborhood. While some are happy Trader Joe’s never opened, others still lament this as a loss for greater Brentwood.

Some in the audience suggested that with the economy being what it is, this was not a good time to come down too hard on local businesses.

Flora Krisiloff said she and her neighbors are not anti-Country Mart, and indeed, have worked for years to protect it, she added.

The BCC land use committee had circulated its list of proposed conditions, but, as of press time, has still not heard back from the Avondale group.

A vote was taken to determine if BCC should propose its conditions and communicate them directly to the Zoning Administrator. The alternative was to take no action and let the homeowners go it alone.

The vote was 6 in favor of BCC involvement, 5 against, with 4 abstaining. Loretta Ditlow, a BCC board member who couldn’t stay for the vote, asked if she could give her proxy to the Avondale homeowner’s group, but BCC Chairman Ray Klein said this was not allowed under the bylaws of the BCC.
Had Ditlow been able to stay, the vote would have been: 6 in favor of BCC-suggested conditions; 6 against having the BCC take a position; and 4 abstentions. Chairman Klein said after the meeting the BCC would proceed with communicating its list of conditions to the Zoning Administrator.

Close observers think both the BCC and the homeowners will continue to operate independently, with both parties offering their proposed conditions to the Zoning Administrator. Klein said he was still open to working with the Avondale group prior to the October 27 hearing.

This schism is unusual for the BCC. Most votes on matters like this are fairly lopsided, with strong agreement among board members.

in Dining
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