Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Parlor-Santa Monica's Permit Woes

The Parlor is a popular sports bar in Santa Monica that's currently facing issues with the city planning commission and area neighbors. It's a great place to watch sports, with dozens of flat panel TVs, and a fun atmosphere. Its proximity to the future MOS-IV subway stop at 16th & Wilshire and the existing Metro Rapid stop at 14th & Wilshire make The Parlor great destination for those looking to catch a game and ride Metro.

However, The Parlor has run into a few legal issues since it applied for a permit to open the top floor for guests. Here's a summary of the issues currently facing the Parlor:
  1. The Parlor is operating without an active parking variance. A parking variance allows for a business to operate despite the fact that it can't provide the amount of on-site parking required by code. In fact, the building's parking variance expired in the early 1980's when the Cinch took over the restaurant. Without a current parking variance, the city can deny a business the right to operate. The Parlor has no on site parking.
  2. The Parlor has been operating the unpermitted second floor for a while. This increases the capacity of the Parlor over what the expired parking variance would have allowed.
  3. The Parlor has a Type 47 liquor permit, subject to operating restrictions. A Type 47 permit allows beer, wine, and liquor service at a "bona fide eating place" with a complete food menu (not just sandwiches and salads) where patrons come to have a meal "in good faith" in the absence of loud music or dancing. Typically, this means that food sales must be at least 65% of total sales, although this rule is not set in stone. Most restaurants which serve liquor in Santa Monica have this permit type (i.e. El Cholo, Barney's Beanery). This permit type is generally easier to obtain than a Type 48 Permit, which allows for liquor sales without food (i.e. The Gaslite or Zanzibar).
  4. Patrons leaving The Parlor late at night have disrupted neighbors. This could result in fines and disciplinary action if neighbors file a formal complaint with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Thus far, community opposition has been focused locally, opposing the operation of the 2nd floor.
  5. The Santa Monica Planning Commission imposed operating restrictions on the Parlor which would make the place operate more like a restaurant than a Sports Bar, and the building owner Parlor has appealed these operating restrictions to the city council. For the all the juicy details, you can see the Staff Report and read a Santa Monica Daily Press article. The City Council will take up the issue again in February.
It would seem that from a legal standpoint, the Parlor's challenges are insurmountable. I doubt they'll continue operating as they currently do. However, the Parlor's parking variance woes bring up an interesting question:  
Should businesses within 1/4 mile of a high quality transit stop (such as the one at 14th & Wilshire) be required to provide as much parking as businesses outside this zone? 
New residences in such an area can have required parking waived in many areas of the state.. Concentrating nightlife around transit might generate more social benefit than concentrating other uses around transit. While having transit accessible nightlife may cause more young people to choose to live near the transit system, having transit available as a sober ride home could also cut down on driving under the influence, resulting in safer roads for everyone.