CLUB Red Square’s pending Conditional Use Permit (CUP) request for patio alcohol service and for outdoor music stirred up a hornet’s nest of community opposition that includes charges of sex, drugs and murder as the matter was heard by the Woodland Hills Warner Center Neighborhood Council this past week.
The issue was first heard by the Planning and Land Use Committee (PLUM) on Monday night, a meeting that was well attended by community members who testified in opposition to the Club’s request for enhanced service and who provided detailed complaints of illegal and inappropriate activity by Club patrons in the parking lot, on the street and in the surrounding neighborhood.
Neighbors gave detailed testimony of Club patrons using drugs and consuming alcohol on the street and in their yards, of fights (one of which culminated in a death this past November) of cars racing through the area, of noise and went so far as to refer to the 2 am Club closure as sounding “like an alarm went off” as the neighborhood noise and disturbance level suddenly and dramatically goes up.
After a lengthy meeting with testimony from both the community and the operators of the establishment, the PLUM committee voted to reject the Club Red Square CUP application for enhanced alcohol Service and outdoor music on the Patio.
The Board then held a SPECIAL meeting on Wednesday night with only one item on the agenda, the PLUM committee’s recommendation to deny the Club’s CUP request.
John Mazur, WHWCNC Boardmember, reported on his investigation which included knocking on the doors of every resident on Penfield from Ventura to Santa Rita, visiting the Club during operating hours on two occasions and visiting the adjacent businesses on three occasions to get feedback on Club Red Square
John indicated that overwhelming feedback from the community was that the Club was responsible for causing a tremendous disturbance in the neighborhood. He was given photos, letters and detailed complaints of “people coming out of the club at 2 am screaming,” cars parking in the middle of Ventura Blvd., fights in the streets and debris left in the yards of the neighbors including syringes, used condoms, bottles and cups.
On behalf of the Club Red Square applicants, Edwin Stegman, a lawyer and a dancer, gave an earnest appeal to the Board to consider the request for enhanced liquor service but did not respond to the complaints of the community. He instead spoke of the virtues of dancing, its merits as a healthy athletic endeavor and “a wonderful form of artistic expression.” Mr. Stegman urged the Board to join him for daytime ballroom dancing to a live orchestra and spoke of his efforts to protect dancing as a cultural asset. His earnest and enthusiastic claim that Club Red Square provides the community with wholesome entertainment failed to sway the gathered audience.
Sergeant Gabriel Kearney of West Valley LAPD Vice stood to speak and held up a 3″ Binder full of reports and photos and evidence of criminal activity at the Club in the last 7 months, all part of their investigation, but the most damning evidence he offered was quite simple. He reported that during the summer months the club was responsible for 2-3 radio calls per night on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. That results in a patrol car per night being removed from service from the rest of the community. Quite simply, the Club is responsible for burning out Police manpower and that effects the entire community.
Sgt. Kearney corroborated the complaints of the neighbors and the testimony of John Mazur and indicated that his files included detail on the Club over-serving intoxicated patrons, serving minors, fights, theft, robbery and car jackings, and included the Murder investigation currently underway.
City Attorney Bill Larsen of the Nuisance and Abatement Program addressed the Club Red Square CUP application simply and directly. “I have surveyed the crime reports and I have identified gang activity. The Club gets rented out to Promoters and that is the problem. The gang activity is out of control here.”
Some discussion ensued over the Club Red Square liquor license and the fact that the “47” license requires the operator to maintain at least 50% of sales from food and prohibits alcohol sales of over 50% of gross receipts. While this and other concerns over the operation of the club came up, ultimately the only question on the table was the CUP request and with that, the Board voted 15-0 to STRONGLY deny the application.
It was pointed out in closing that the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization (WHHO) and the WHWCNC have in place standards – conditions that apply to all applications for liquor licenses and these operators have never visited the Neighborhood Council but that they will now learn of the 21 conditions that the NC applies to all applicants.
The CUP application comes before the Zoning Commission on Monday, April 7th at 2 pm at the Marvin Braude Constituent Service Center. Comments on this application may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org and they will be forwarded to the Commission.
The most interesting development from this CUP request process is the discovery that the Club’s Police Permit is up for review by the Police Commission on May 22 at 9 am. While the scope of the current discussion is limited to the specifics of the CUP request, the Police Commission review is the opportunity for the community to address the Club and its impact on the community.