Malibu Surfside News

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Alcohol Permit Hearing Is Expected to Be Postponed

BY BILL KOENEKER

MMK Enterprises, Inc., the owner of the Circle K convenience store located at 21216 Pacific Coast Highway, who wants to appeal to the city council the planning commission's decision to not allow the store to sell beer and wine, is  again seeking a postponement.
The city council was scheduled to hear the appeal at its regularly scheduled meeting on July 23, when its was postponed.  Another cancellation is sought for the rescheduled date on Aug. 27 until Sept. 10.
The planning staff is recommending the council deny the appeal and also deny the Conditional Use Permit for “the sale of beer and wine for offsite consumption as an accessory use to the existing Circle K convenience store.”
The proposal was rejected by the planning commission on two separate occasions.
The latest stir involves a Malibu Chamber of Commerce unsigned email sent to members seeking support.
The email reads, “A fellow Chamber Member is requesting your help. The Malibu 76 Circle K store is appealing their denied application to sell beer and wine. The owner needs your help in signing a petition. If you have any questions, please contact Mehran Saraf directly at 818-481-9450.”
However, when Saraf, who is the owner, was contacted by the Malibu Surfside News as instructed in the email, Saraf deferred all questions to Don Schmitz, who is the head of the chamber, but also is representing Saraf before the city.
There is nothing in the email, which reveals Schmitz’s connection to Saraf.
The day-to-day operations of the chamber are handled by Mark Persson, the interim executive director, who was asked about the email and said it is common for chamber members to elicit help from other members through letters and emails.
When questioned about Schmitz’s dual roles in the matter Persson said, “That is a little tricky.”
During the previous hearings, commissioners were apparently swayed by public opinion that there were already too many outlets where alcoholic beverages can be obtained along that stretch of Pacific Coast Highway.
The appellant contends that the basis for denial on the grounds that there are a concentration of too many businesses selling alcohol for off-site consumption is not legal and cannot be implemented by the municipality. Planning staff disagrees. 
The commission hearing was for an application for a conditional use permit to allow the offsite sale of alcoholic beverages as an accessory use to the existing uses of the convenience store.
In May 2007, an application was received by the planning department for a CUP for store use, which included a proposal to sell beer and wine as well as the interior remodel of the existing service station.
At that meeting, commissioners heard from homeowners, attorneys and others who protested the opening of another location for the sale of alcoholic beverages given the proximity of so many other outlets in the immediate area.
A second meeting was no different when some of that same group of critics came back to the commission to show opposition.
Critics have vowed to show up again at the upcoming hearing. “We are going to be there. We are not going to let them get away with this,” one critic said. “We will have another petition.”
The staff has carried out a reevaluation of the new CUP application and “determined that onsite conditions, which led the planning commission to the aforementioned conclusion, have not changed since 2007.”
The applicant also unsuccessfully argued the sale of beer and wine “will be an incidental sale item to the nearly 5000 goods currently offered for sale at the market.”

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