Should a convenience store that sells liquor in a tough community be required to hire two armed guards?
Neighbors say it should be. The owners of Smiley's Market, rebuilt after it was torched and looted in the 1992 riots, disagree.
Roy and Jeff Muchamel, owners of the store at 14712 Parthenia St., said city zoning officials imposed unfair conditions, including the two-guard requirement, when the Muchamels applied for a new liquor license after reopening a year ago.
The Muchamels sued, and the City Council in May revised the conditions to require just one unarmed guard, from 2 p.m. to closing.
But members of the Panorama City West Neighborhood Assn. say a lack of armed security there will hasten a return to the pre-riot condition of the residential neighborhood around the store.
"We're not happy with this at all," said Leslie Yamashita, director of the association.
The association cited police reports and testimony taken at previous zoning hearings from officers who had conducted drug stings in the parking lot and had arrested people for public drinking, drunk driving and assaults nearby before the store was burned down in the riots.
Police reported a sizable decrease in the number of robberies and murders in the vicinity of the market in the one-year period after Smiley's destruction compared to the one-year period before.
Although the city has approved a conditional use permit for alcohol sales at the store, the district office of the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control in May refused to grant the owners a liquor license.
"I'm still a victim," said Jeff Muchamel, who said much of his business had been generated by liquor sales.
Muchamel can appeal the district's ruling at a hearing Aug. 14 before an administrative law judge in Los Angeles. If the judge upholds the Alcoholic Beverage Control Department's decision, the owners may seek further reconsideration before a departmental appeals board, said Jim Smith, the department's district administrator in Van Nuys.