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PANORAMA CITY : Group Appeals OK of Liquor License

March 28, 1995|TIM MAY

A homeowners group has appealed a city zoning administrator's decision to grant a liquor license to the owners of Smiley's market, a convenience store at 14715 Parthenia St. in Panorama City.

In October, the Panorama City West Neighborhood Assn. and Van Nuys attorney Ronald A. Litt organized a drive against renewal of the store's license after it was rebuilt following its destruction in the 1992 riots.

Members of the association and others said the store and its parking lot had become a magnet for gang members and drug dealers, and was the site of numerous shootings and fights.

After the store was rebuilt last year in a new mini-mall and the owners applied for a new liquor license, zoning officials denied the application, citing residents' complaints, the high level of crime in the area, and because the property was not rebuilt exactly the way it was prior to its destruction, said Litt, who represents the homeowners association.

Store owners appealed the decision and sued the city, stating that zoning officials failed to inform them that they would lose their liquor license if they did not rebuild in the same format.

In February, the zoning administration reversed its decision and granted a liquor license contingent on 18 conditions, including the hiring of an unarmed security guard, reducing the store's operating hours and banning the sale of single bottles of beer and half-pint bottles of liquor.

But Litt and Leslie Yamashita, director of the homeowners association, say tougher measures are needed to ensure the convenience store does not again become a problem for the mostly residential neighborhood.

They appealed the zoning administration's February decision, demanding that, if the license is granted, security guards at the store should be armed, that the store close even earlier, and that liquor be sold only in quantities of one-liter or more.

Jeff Muchamel, owner of the market, said he is being unfairly targeted by the homeowners association, which did not protest a recent liquor license application made by the owners of the Los Three Amigos liquor store a block east of Smiley's on Parthenia Street, he said.

"We are trying to improve the neighborhood," Muchamel said. "We built a Class A shopping center. To not allow me to use my store would be unfair."

Muchamel conceded that the store had some security problems before the riots, but attributed them partially to the layout of the store's parking lot, which could be reached from an alley and was out of site of traffic on Parthenia.

"I was a victim of the riots," Muchamel said. "We've rebuilt, and already agreed to 18 conditions. It's much better now," he said, adding that he believes that armed guards are unnecessary.

A hearing on the homeowners association's appeal of the zoning administration's decision to grant the license will be held Downtown at 9 a.m. April 4, at 201 N. Figueroa St., Room 201.

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