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Westwood looks to reduce obstacles for some businesses to obtain alcohol permits

A new city ordinance proposal may make it easier and cheaper to acquire alcohol permits for restaurants in Westwood. (Joe Akira/Daily Bruin staff)

By Lily Tinoco

Nov. 20, 2018 1:13 a.m.

A new ordinance proposal may make it easier for restaurants to serve alcohol in Westwood.

The Department of City Planning proposed an ordinance that aims to reduce the processing times and costs of alcoholic beverage permits for sit-down restaurants in response to a motion by the Los Angeles City Council last year.

Councilman Paul Krekorian said in the motion that the current alcohol permit process hurts small businesses because they cannot compete with larger ones that can afford the time and cost of the current process. Krekorian added he hopes simplifying the City’s permit process could promote small businesses.

Michael Skiles, president of the North Westwood Neighborhood Council, said he thinks the proposed ordinance will help businesses in Westwood.

“I think that it will make it a lot easier for businesses to open and bring good services to our community,” Skiles said. “Historically, businesses trying to serve alcohol have been subjected to far too long and costly of a process.”

It currently takes at least six months and costs about $12,500 for restaurants to obtain a conditional use permit from the city to serve alcoholic beverages, according to the proposal.

Skiles said reducing the time it currently takes for restaurants to obtain a permit reduces the likelihood that community groups will appeal the permit, a process that is bad for the businesses.

“The complexity of the process requires most restaurants to hire either lawyers or expediters to represent them in all these appeals,” Skiles said. “That really puts small businesses in particular at a disadvantage because they are unable to wait nearly a year and invest tens of thousands of dollars into something as simple as being able to provide wine or beer with a meal.”

Skiles added he thinks this ordinance will further facilitate the process by reducing the number of provisions currently in place.

“The other way that this ordinance helps is it takes about a hundred provisions and processes relevant to alcohol use and narrows them down to 50 in the hopes of having a less complex and confusing process ordinary restaurants can understand without having to hire lawyers”, Skiles said.

Bars, nightclubs and liquor stores will not be affected by the proposed ordinance. This program will only apply to certain sit-down restaurants that operate between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., don’t offer forms of live entertainment and follow other provisions that still need to be finalized, according to the proposal.

Andrew Thomas, executive director of the Westwood Village Improvement Association, said he thinks the restaurants in Westwood Village will have no problem complying with the new policies.

“This is a concern amongst some people that alcohol would be problematic because of (Westwood Village’s) proximity to UCLA. I don’t share that concern,” Thomas said. “I think our businesses will comply with the law.”

Thomas added he is in favor of this ordinance.

“I’m in favor of any modifications that will allow businesses to do so more quickly and efficiently. Alcohol is a very important economic driver and with the stakes so high, our restaurants are going to do everything to comply,” he said.

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Lily Tinoco
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