Sunday, October 23, 2016

Better finish your dinner and drinks before 9 p.m – It’s almost curfew on Colorado Boulevard

By Nathan Solis

EAGLE ROCK — Colorado Boulevard in recent years has attracted many new restaurants and bars serving up everything from micro brews and burgers to champagne cocktails and English pea risotto. While Eagle Rock’s expanding dining and drinking scene has been welcomed by many residents, it turns out many of these new Eagle Rock businesses are breaking the law. Their crime? Staying open past 9 p.m.

The same city ordinance that has been credited for creating a more lively Colorado Boulevard also contains a provision that all new businesses – including restaurants and bars – need special city permission to operate after 9 p.m. Many of the new businesses have never bothered to get that permission or are simply ignoring the curfew in the  Colorado Boulevard Specific Plan Ordinance.

The mandatory closing time applies to businesses that opened after the 1992 ordinance went into effect. The provision requiring city permission to operate between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. went pretty much unnoticed until a new Eagle Rock sports bar – 5 Line – recently got in trouble over the issue. Now, city officials are trying to figure out a solution without having to re-do the entire ordinance.

The issue has created confusion and puts new businesses, like the 5 Line, which opened earlier this year, at a disadvantage compared to older bars and restaurants that are not covered by the 1992 ordinance.

“Things are kind of a mess,” says David Greene of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council.  “There is a patchwork of new and old businesses along Colorado. Some are violators of the municipal code  who are right next door to other places who can stay open past 9 p.m. This is an unpopular code.”

The problems caused by the 9 p.m.closing came to light in a story published by the Boulevard Sentinel about city inspectors who visited the 5 Line after a complaint was filed. The website of the 5 Line,  which is part of the adjacent Big Mama’s and Papa’s pizzeria,  says that it’s open until 9:30 p.m.

“Nobody really follows that rule,” says 5 Line manager Robert Hamil of the 9 p.m. curfew. “Two years ago we had Big Mama and Papa’s Pizzeria, and we stayed open later than 9 p.m. and no one said anything. It’s because we’re new and we have a liquor license.”

Included in 5 Line’s conditional use permit to serve alcohol is a clause stating that the sports bar will not operate after 9 p.m. 5 Line also can’t have a happy hour or any exterior signs advertising alcohol. Any exemptions would have to go through the Planning Department.

Many other new Colorado Boulevard businesses operate past 9 p.m., such as Little Beast, which opened its doors last year, The Oinkster, which opened in 2006, and Cafe Beaujolais, which has been on Colorado nearly two decades.

The 9 p.m. curfew is one of the provisions in the ordinance designed to ensure that nearby residents are not disturbed by  businesses. Other restrictions and provisions included in the ordinance deal with parking, business signs facing Colorado Boulevard as well as the 9 pm. closing.

Councilmember Jose Huizar has received numerous requests from Eagle Rock residents to update the plan.

“Councilmember Huizar will support whatever the community/business consensus is but there needs to be a thorough public discussion first,” says Huizar’s communications director Rick Coca.

Taco Spot, another Colorado Boulevard restaurant, closes its doors at 9 p.m., but owner Joshua Lewis is not a fan of the restriction. “It’s disconcerting to know that if we wanted to stay open past a certain hour that we can’t.”

Nathan Solis is a Highland Park resident who writes about and photographs the L.A. music scene. You can find more of Solis stories, reviews and photos at Smashed Chair.

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  1. Dang, I wish they would let places stay open until 10:00pm! As it is, if you go out to eat at 8pm, you have to really rush it.

  2. [email protected]

    If Eagle Rock residents don’t want Little Beast, The Oinkster, Cafe Beaujolais, on Colorado they should just move down to York Blvd. Highland Park will welcome these restaurants with open arms. .

  3. The “ordinance” mentioned in the article is a specific plan. There are procedures, timelines and costs associated with changing specific plans. They are put in place by stakeholders in the community.

    Zoning doesn’t just go away because a few vocal people don’t agree with it. They change when the community follows agreed upon procedure, and everyone is invited to the table. Variances and amendments can, and do happen. Big Mamas and Papas-5 Line knows this.

    Everyone wants to eat and drink at their favorite places and rail against zoning, until the bar opens up at the end of your street, then people want zoning enforced.

    I’m all for changing Eagle Rock’s specific plan, but not to a bunch of full license/2 AM establishments.

    • Clearly this ordinace gives an unfair advantage to a restaurant like Colombo’s, which stays open until midnight. It also hinders growth along Colorado blvd. Time for this to change. We need new restaurants and bars.

      • Yes it does give the older businesses an advantage, but that was decided by the community, not a business owner ignoring the Specific Plan.

        I agree, it is time for a change. But who will pony up the money/time to write a new one?

      • We “need” new restaurants and bars along Colordo? Are you kidding me? We have so many now! I love them all, but need is certainly the wrong word to use.

  4. The goals of the ordinance include making Eagle Rock more pedestrian friendly and attracting businesses that the area needs, so the 9 p.m. restriction seems especially counterproductive. I find myself regularly driving to Highland Park to spend money eating there, when instead I’d love to walk half a block and support my neighborhood restaurants on Colorado. I’d much prefer ditching my car and walking locally to support neighborhood small businesses but I can only do this on the weekend given that most places close so early and I work until 7 p.m. We are fortunate to have so many good restaurants in the neighborhood, I hope the city considers updating this ordinance to reflect the fact that we live in a busy world-class city, not some forgotten backwater. There’s obviously a big difference between full license/2 a.m. bars or clubs and local restaurants staying open until 10 or 11 p.m.

    • AJG gets to the heart of the issue. There’s a big difference between a restaurant that serves wine and beer wanting to stay open til 10 or 11, and a full-liquor bar that wants to close at 2am. But there should be a public process for both businesses to apply for what they want, and the community should have a role in making the decision. Right now, the City turns a blind eye to everyone violating the Specific Plan, which means transgressions big and small slip by, and we have a crazy patchwork of rules-breakers and rule-followers on Colorado, with varied closing times and levels of fear of being caught; meanwhile, all the places that opened before 1992 make their profits regardless. Another big problem are the fees associated with getting an exception to the Specific Plan; it’s so expensive that only the wealthiest businesses take the legal route. The Specific Plan preserves our historic buildings and encourages new business, and it should be preserved; but it’s time to update it for today’s L.A.

      • I’d like to point out that while the older businesses have an advantage of being ‘grandfathered’ in, that does not guarantee their profits are churning along without meeting demand from their customers. I don’t know the specifics because in 1992 I barely knew where Eagle Rock was but very few of the bars and restaurants along Colorado were in business back then. At the time, it was a sleepier community and no one imagined that people would want to eat and drink wine after 9pm.

        Many of our rules and regulations in this city are a mess because of weak willed politicians and NIMBY attitudes. Add in the zero-enforcement of our codes and you are right, it is a mess.

        I find the new generation of NIMBY hipsters fascinating. Now that they are becoming homeowner’s and stakeholders in the community there are competing ideas about what is a valued neighbor and what is considered a nuisance.

        • Michael Blanchard

          The business which I’m mostly aware of which have the advantage of existing before the Specific Plan are Casa Bianca, Black Boar (which inherited the exception granted to Toppers before it) and Colombo’s. There may be a few others, but these are the ones most visible to me, and I have no significant complaints about their current operating hours.

          There IS a process for businesses to individually apply for exceptions, but as has been pointed out, it’s expensive and onerous, and even if the fees are paid, there is no guarantee the exception will be granted, which means all that money and time is flushed away.

          I hope the newly elected ERNC will move forward to push CD14 to revise the Specific Plan for the Eagle Rock of the 21st Century. In my mind, that means the new “standard” closing hour for businesses would be 11pm M-Th and 12am Fri-Sun, with a less expensive means for specific businesses to apply for later hours by meeting certain requirements (security, lighting, parking, etc.). That’s my proposal, for what it’s worth.

      • A specific plan can be amended, you just need a motion and a series of outreach meetings. At least you have a specific plan to amend, which is much better than not having one, like in echo park where every business wants (and seems to push through) a full bar till 2 am.

        • I have no problem with full bars until 2 am as long as the owner/operator takes sufficient steps to ameliorate potential problems. We live in a major city.

  5. I support modifications to allow later hours.

    It is funny to hear 5line talking about this (“nobody follows that rule”). What he means is, we don’t want to follow that rule. I’d like to see the liquor signage they put up on the walls of their business to be taken down. These clearly are a violation of the relevant codes.

  6. I just think it’s crazy that the community plan hasn’t been updated in more than 20 years! They should be updated every 5 years… neighborhoods change, and the planning should stay current to reflect that reality.

    • The Colorado Boulevard Specific Plan was actually updated in 2007, to include a Parking Credit Program that allows businesses to open in historic buildings without providing the on-site parking normally required by the city. (This is a real can of worms — since there’s a fund where all that Parking Credit money goes, and nobody knows exactly how much is in it.) The problem with updating any Specific Plan is that it costs either lots of money (the Planning Dept, has to assign an employee to the update, and whomever requests the update essentially has to pay their salary); or lots of time — if it’s done for “free,” meaning at the request of the City Council, the update takes years to be finalized. Here in Eagle Rock, we’re pursuing the latter; better late than never.

      • Thanks for the insight!

        Parking credits seems like a smart way to cut the red tape of opening a business in LA (parking minimums have no business in an urban setting, IMHO) but obviously there needs to be transparency of where that money goes.

        Any idea why the 9pm curfew wasn’t removed in 2007? I live nearby, eat in the area once or twice a month, and it seems awfully restrictive to me…I hope it’s updated in the process you’re going through now.

        • the term “parking credits” reminds me of the clean air credits that businesses buy and sell to skirt EPA regulations? how do they work?

      • Whether it is recent or not, the Colorado Specific Plan never was a fully polished document. When I was working in real estate development, I spent a few months working on a prospective mixed use project on Colorado and ran into some half-done parking requirements and stated plan goals that ran headlong into height, use, and FAR restrictions and parking minimums that made anything but the biggest most highly leveraged investments the only thing that could afford to get built.

        Colorado a the main commercial drag for the community but the street design is at war with itself – it is a classic “stroad”. That conflict is enshrined in the specific plan. The other major conflict in the specific plan is the desire to have both a viable mixed use building stock along with bizarre restrictions like this curfew and the aforementioned building requirements.

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