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SOUTH : City Upholds Ban on Store's Liquor Sales


The city Planning Commission's refusal to let a merchant sell liquor at his store, rebuilt after the 1992 riots, appears to mark the end of a permit process that drew criticism from residents and store owners alike.

At the center of what some say is the last case of its kind is Yoon Kap Lee, owner of the Ball Park Liquor Store at 4228 S. Avalon Blvd. Lee said he has simply tried to reconstruct the store he lost.

His case was heard last week by the Planning Commission, nearly a month after a state appellate court upheld the city's post-riot restrictions on liquor stores.

Lee began rebuilding after securing a $500,000 small-business loan without immediately applying to the Planning Commission for a conditional-use permit to sell alcohol. The commission's zoning approval is required for store owners who intend to sell beer and wine.

The commission turned down his request for a conditional-use permit this month, finding that Lee no longer could benefit from a city emergency ordinance passed after the riots. That ordinance streamlined the rebuilding process by exempting store owners from the tougher requirements the city adopted in 1987.

Although Lee's store was destroyed in the riots, the commission found that because he did not apply until last fall--after the one-year deadline set by the emergency ordinance--he would have to meet the stricter requirements. The commission then decided not to approve his request as a new conditional-use application.

Lee said that delays in applying and rebuilding were due to financial problems, including securing a loan. He said that in light of the commission's decision he may not reopen.

"We are still petitioning the Supreme Court," said Stephen Jones, an attorney representing Korean American store owners who challenged the city in a lawsuit. "And if that decision is that store owners don't have to reapply, then this whole issue will be void."

Lee's case appears to mark the end of a post-riot process that often put merchants and residents at odds over the need to limit liquor sales while encouraging mom-and-pop stores to do business in the area.

This is probably the last "rebuild" case, said Paul Lee, an attorney who represents the Community Coalition. "And the commission's decision sent a clear message to the (store) owners that when you are ready to reopen, you have to comply with the law. You can't circumvent the law."

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