By Gary Walker
Nearly a month after an Argonaut article detailed the high rate of outlets that serve alcohol in Venice, several members of the Venice Neighborhood Council have remained silent in the wake of the new information.
According to data collected by the Westside Impact Project, a Los Angeles County campaign that is seeking to lower the number of alcohol-related problems in Santa Monica and Venice, both communities have substantially higher densities of outlets where liquor can be purchased than other areas of the county.
In Venice, there are 106 businesses licensed to sell liquor, beer and wine within the seaside town of 3.17 square miles, which equates to 33 outlets per square mile on average. The county average is 16 alcohol outlets per square mile.
And a recent Los Angeles County public health report showed communities with a high alcohol outlet density rate were nine to 10 times more likely to have increased rates of violent crime.
Neighborhood council members Thomas Walker, Sylvia Roth, Erin Sullivan-Ward, Abigail Myers and Matthew Kline did not respond to inquiries at Argonaut press time regarding the county data on the number of venues where liquor is served in Venice.
For nightspots and new restaurants seeking beer and wine permits as well as full liquor licenses, many have seen Venice as a boomtown in recent years. Abbot Kinney Boulevard and Rose Avenue are two popular destinations that sport new venues where liquor is served or the merchants have applied for a liquor license.
While many of the new restaurants have not obtained licenses to sell liquor yet, one of the first stops for a prospective business owner to solicit community support is the local council.
Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents Venice, insists that all developers and business owners who want planning approvals or licenses approach his neighborhood councils prior to coming before the full City Council.
A recent example is an application from Local 1205, an Abbot Kinney deli. When the owner – who also owns the popular and adjacent bar The Other Room – asked to have its hours extended about five years ago for on- and offsite liquor sales or for the ability to sell alcohol to-go, it was denied by the local council.
A small group of residents claim that Local 1205 was selling beer and wine last month without a license.
Sean Ramos of the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control could not confirm if Local 1205 had a license to sell beer and wine on or off site.
In April, the neighborhood council’s Land Use and Planning Committee voted in favor of the business’ application to obtain a Type 41, despite earlier pleas from homeowners who live behind the deli/bar to deny the approval. The license allows beer and wine consumption on and off premises. According to Alcohol Beverage Control, the premise must be maintained as a “bona fide eating place.”
The local council approved the extension of hours as well as the Type 41 license April 16.
“No one asked to reconsider the vote. I hope that future alcohol applications are looked at through the prism of the (alcohol outlet density) data,” said Venice Neighborhood Council President Linda Lucks.
“I think a better turnout from the neighborhoods might have made a difference,” added Venice Neighborhood Council Vice President Marc Saltzberg, who voted against extending the 1205’s hours.
Saltzberg thinks a popular destination for entertainment like Abbot Kinney, which has been an economic boon to merchants and experienced a revival, can eventually become tainted by a preponderance of bars.
“I am of the mind that alcohol and inebriation can lead to problems that may kill the golden goose,” he said. “I don’t think that off-site liquor should be a part of Abbot Kinney.”
Tony Arranaga, Rosendahl’s press deputy, did not return calls seeking comment from the councilman by presstime.
Lucks said she wishes the Westside Impact Project data had been available when the council was considering the Local 1205 application.
“The Venice Neighborhood Council board has to look harder and closer before agreeing to alcohol licenses,” she said.