The Glendale City Council voted Tuesday to allow two veterans organizations to open a private bar in La Crescenta, despite vehement opposition from nearby residents.
In a 4-1 decision, the council approved a variance that will permit the American Legion Post 288 and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1614 to jointly operate a canteen at the Verdugo Hills Memorial Hall, 4011 La Crescenta Ave.
The American Legion post has occupied the hall since 1934, but the group is not licensed to sell alcohol. The VFW post, facing a dwindling membership and escalating rent, wants to move from a rented commercial building about two blocks away into the legion hall and bring along its liquor license.
Angry residents, charging that their children will be endangered by veterans who drink and drive, said they will file a lawsuit against Glendale next week in Los Angeles Superior Court to overturn the council's decision.
They also will protest before the state Department of Alcohol Beverage Control, which in about a month will conduct a public hearing on a liquor license for the bar, said Sharon Olsen, a La Crescenta resident.
Former Glendale City Atty. Frank R. Manzano, who lives near the legion hall, is representing the residents, Olsen said.
"The veterans fought for our freedom. Now we have the freedom to say, 'We don't want you in our neighborhood drinking,' " Olsen said. "We're sorry that they're having trouble financially. But it is not the city's responsibility to cure one organization's financial problems."
The hall has been operating under a special city permit since 1952, when the area was zoned for housing. Legion members have obtained one-day ABC permits from the for some social events and have served free drinks at others, post members said.
The posts, with a combined membership of 337, asked the city in February for permission to operate a joint private bar, which would serve only members and guests.
In April, Glendale Zoning Administrator Kathleen Marcus approved a variance for the veterans, but neighbors appealed her decision to the Board of Zoning Adjustments. In September, the board upheld Marcus' decision. Olsen then appealed the matter to the City Council.
In a memo to council members, the city's planning department staff on Monday recommended that the variance be approved, saying there was no evidence that the joint canteen would pose a danger to the neighborhood.
But Olsen and other residents said they are concerned about their children's safety and the effects of the canteen on traffic, parking and housing values in the area. Last week, about 65 residents conducted a candlelight vigil outside the legion hall to show their opposition.
"Our cause is a cause for every residential neighborhood in Glendale," resident Sherry Taylor told the council Monday. "Think about your moral responsibility if an alcohol-related accident occurs on our streets."
Mayor Larry Zarian, who cast the lone vote against the variance, agreed with Taylor. "I think I'm setting a bad example to say it's OK to allow liquor to be served on a regular basis in a residential neighborhood," he said. "I have a moral problem with that."
The council attached 21 conditions to its approval, including the installation of walls to separate the hall's parking lot from the neighborhood, maintenance of an alcohol-abuse education program for the two groups' members and the posting of drunk-driving laws in the building.
The veterans must also limit the canteen's hours--from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
The groups still need approval from the ABC to move the liquor license. Despite Olsen's promise of a lawsuit and opposition at a public hearing held by the ABC, the veterans' leaders said they will try to soothe relations with their neighbors.
Without the variance, "We will not survive another year," said Bob Jackson, a VFW member. "We will not do anything to harm the neighborhood."