DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES – In most cases, when a Historic Core restaurant applies for a liquor license, the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council sends a letter to urge city zoning czars to grant the request.

On Tuesday, however, the board voted to withhold support for a liquor license for a proposed Main Street eatery because it is slated to go in the ground floor of a building that will house some formerly homeless tenants who may be in addiction recovery.

Nonprofit supportive housing developer Skid Row Housing Trust is about a month from opening the New Genesis, an affordable complex that will house tenants with a range of incomes, from the formerly homeless to those who can pay market rate. It will also include onsite social services.

The New Genesis is already adjacent to Portofino Restaurant, which sells beer and wine, and it shares a block with at least three eateries with full liquor licenses.

“It’s one thing to have alcohol here and there in the neighborhood, but when you have to walk by a restaurant serving liquor to get to your door, that’s a problem,” said DLANC member “General” Jeff Page, who represents Skid Row.

Supporters of the proposed permit challenge the idea that having an alcohol-serving business in the building is no more of an impediment to recovery than the bars and restaurants that permeate the neighborhood.

“A recovering alcoholic or formerly homeless person has a right to live in an environment like everyone else,” said Elizabeth Peterson, the trust’s land-use consultant. 

In the planning stages for the New Genesis, DLANC leaders were wary of another Main Street building with social service office fronting the street — those officials asked Skid Row Housing Trust to instead fill street-level commercial spaces with restaurants or other neighborhood-serving amenities.

The organization signed a lease with the operator of popular food truck Great Balls on Tires, which serves gourmet meatballs, to open a permanent location. The proposal calls for a 67-seat eatery, including 12 outdoor seats. Alcohol would be served only with food, and there would not be a dedicated bar, said Molly Rysman, Skid Row Housing Trust’s director of external affairs.

Rysman said DLANC officials also expressed interest in having a street level business that would stay open late. The Great Balls establishment is proposing to stay open until 10 p.m., which would only be a viable business plan if it could sell alcohol, Rysman said.   

“That said, we get that it’s a little funny,” Rysman said. “But we feel it’s a worthwhile tradeoff — our residents get to live in a fantastic neighborhood and if that means we have to have a restaurant on the ground-floor, we think it’s worth it.”

But in voting 8-4 to not send a letter of support, DLANC has jeopardized the proposed liquor license. A city zoning administrator already considered the license, but opted to withhold a decision until DLANC and local police officials weighed in. It is uncertain when the zoning administrator will issue a final decision.

DLANC President Patti Berman said that in not sending a letter of support, the council is not technically in opposition. Some members of the board, including Berman, would be more supportive of a license for beer and wine, she said.

Construction is complete at the New Genesis, but it is not slated to get its certificate of occupancy until September.        

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